All artists have their fascinations and obsessions, and for Jay Critchley, one is cars. In the 1980s he covered, filled and sand-blasted them, and left the cars parked in the waterfront parking lot “gallery” of Provincetown.
Thirty years later, the artist stood in New York’s Freight + Volume Gallery and wrapped each engine part of a classic 1979 MG sports car with recycled plastic shopping bags, the first ritual of Deep Bones—an exploration of society’s voracious appetite for hydrocarbons.
In this performance installation, Critchley not only eviscerated the “organs” of the car, but he also ritually displayed them, before returning them to the corpus vehicle. The artist then mummified the car with more woven plastic bags. Above the car, a descended nimbus fashioned from these same bags hovered over the entombed machine.
Like many installations from previous years, Critchley presided over opening night at the gallery as a kind of civic priest, proclaiming in “O Breaker of Bones,” “Our pilgrimage to the afterlife begins in this earthly place, the place we return to after our spiral journey into the multiverse. But return we must, as we take our prized possessions and techno necessities into the afterglow! Have we lost our desire for eternity?”
The automobile has remained a vessel for Critchley’s hopeful search for his own “desire for eternity.” Keeping one foot in the car world and one in the afterlife, Critchley also created Final Passage in 2008, mummifying an iconic 1965 Chevy Impala in an abandoned Providence, Rhode Island mausoleum in the North Burial Ground. The artist’s summer long collaboration, Cryptic Providence, engaged other artists and thinkers throughout the cemetery.