Thomas Doyle’s small-scale sculpture of a house in if the creek don’t rise tells the story that takes place in a gray zone between everyday events and the fantastical calamities that can, at any time, strike a home. Doyle’s “people,” an assortment of figures, carry on, promenading or sitting, oblivious to encroaching danger. Viewers, though, are visually plunged into a world that is strange and yet unsettlingly familiar.
In his first solo Museum exhibition, Doyle creates a swollen riverbed that crosses the Museum’s gallery. A river that is flooding, it must be dammed, and the piled up paraphernalia from Doyle’s suburban house becomes the force that holds it back. The debris actually forms two dams and in between them sits a single house and a yard. “The dams, “Doyle said, “have a purpose, while nodding to absurdity of changing the natural world.”
After a decade working with model houses in 1:87 scale — the scale favored by most American model railroaders — Doyle has incorporated actual home building materials, such as drywall and studs into his works. And, for this exhibition, he has built four full-scale rooms with interiors awry, affected by the flood. As viewers spy the rooms through the windows of the house, they may find their expectations of safety and comfort upended in times of crisis. These rooms, like the small sculptures that Doyle sets in his other homes, conjure the memories – peaceful and painful – that haunt a house over the years.
Doyle, who lives and works in Katonah, in New York’s Westchester County, has shown his sculptures at galleries and museums across the United States and in London, Florence, Seoul, and Beijing, among other locations. Organized by the Hudson River Museum, Thomas Doyle: if the creek don’t rise is curated by Bartholomew Bland, the Museum’s Deputy Director.