installing Between Dog and Wolf, location unknown photo by Bill Daniel, 2009

My practice is a legible hybrid of research, activism, and alternative exhibition strategies. Working from Pittsburgh, a city set inside the flexible cultural boundaries of both Appalachia (a name we call The Land and People) and the Rustbelt (a name we call What We’ve Done to The Land and People)I am a storyteller and memory worker with a shapeshifting, flexible approach to creative tactics. I dig deep where I stand, balancing an academic’s research practice with the folk-keeper’s belief in the validity of the stories and practices of everyday people.

 

bio:

Shaun Slifer (b.1979) is a multi-disciplinary Appalachian artist, nonfiction author, and museum professional based in Pittsburgh, PA. His creative practice fundamentally investigates memory, directly challenging the oppression of currently-dominant historical narratives, both social and ecological.

 

Shaun regularly works in collaboration with artists and other specialists, and in collectively-structured groups. He has worked as the Creative Director at the award-winning West Virginia Mine Wars Museum since 2015. Shaun is a founding member of the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, and an original member of the now-disbanded Howling Mob Society. His book, So Much To Be Angry About: Appalachian Movement Press 1969-79, was released on West Virginia University Press in March, 2021.

 

Shaun has exhibited internationally in a variety of museums, galleries, and nonprofit community spaces, as well as non-authorized public settings. He has presented on his research and creative practice at numerous universities and conferences in the United States and Western Europe. His work has been exhibited across the US and the world, including at the Queens Museum (NYC), the Biennial of Graphic Arts (Ljubljana, Slovenia), and the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia (Italy). For his work with the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, he was presented with Honorary Membership in the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Local 1440 in Matewan, WV.

 

Currently living in Southwestern Pennsylvania, with roots in Nebraska and Tennessee, Shaun received a BFA with a concentration in sculpture from Watkins College of Art in Nashville in 2003.

key points of interest:

  • landscape + memory
  • museums in any form whatsoever
  • historical markers + plaques + public memorials
  • histories of oppression + histories of resistance to oppression
  • coyotes + urban wildlife
  • mythology + “folklore”
  • souvenirs (ie: smashed pennies &c)
  • propaganda
  • “folk” art/arte popular (ie: scrimshaw &c)
  • pioneer flora + fauna
  • DIY pedestrian and municipal infrastructures
  • air/water/soil quality
  • subterfuge + détournement
  • trickster archetypes.

At the confluence of rivers, the area currently known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I live and work, was always a place of great focus and movement for many peoples. At different times this region was home to “Hopewell” and “Monongahela” ancestral cultures, later Osage, and Shawnee peoples, and most expansively/recently by the Haudenosaunee and by many Lenape in forced migration westward from their ancestral lands as a result of settler colonialism in the Delaware valley.

The last recorded native settlement within current Pittsburgh city limits was Shannopin’s Lenape settlement along the Allegheny River, in what is now Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Shannopin and his community moved from the area as colonial tensions between the French and English were rising, around or before 1754.