Josine Starrels- Restraint is the enemy of heroism.
Mike Rathbun’s muscular installations attest to his great stamina, his boundless energy and the breadth of his ideas.When I first encountered his work my imagination led me almost automatically to visions I did not fully understand :- I felt as if I was in the midst of a primeval landscape where giant trees were growing in such close proximity that the forest floor was covered in dense shade emanating muffled silences and invisible threats.
Among other sensory feelings the artist evokes and explores are the taste of fear, the dangers rising from the unseen and always present powers of nature. In his work there is, an unstated struggle of heroic proportions as he confronts his own imagination with untold bravery. And, since that imagination is untamed and larger than life, his struggle is one for heroes.
In various mythologies, heroes are often demi-Gods ; in spite of that, they have to defeat their own fears as a prerequisite to every battle they are forced to engage in. Conditioned as we are to be prudent , we often stumble between what we wish to be and what we really are.
Restraint is the enemy of heroism.
Then I ask myself, what does heroism mean to me?….and through the fogs of time I remember the equestrian statues I saw in the town I grew up in —the riders were always heroes…sitting .high in the saddle, pulling the reins of the rearing bronze stallions, whose explosive power had to be held in check lest they would fall off their pedestals.
With the eyes of the child that I was then, I understood that the raw energy of the horse, if unchecked, would court disaster and therefore the hero had to restrain the stallion to save them both. In bronze, restraints work well . Romantic heroes however, hate restraints. .
Rathbun’s ideas turn into forms that have to conform to his vision. The scope of his vision and its realization are determined by willpower
His installations are physical expressions of his state of mind, emotions, thoughts, dreams, insights. He needs that will power to persist in his labors, to vanquish all physical obstacles, in order to summon all of his powers to attain his goals. Each installation is different yet they all are born of his robust, undaunted spirit – his indomitable will, his hand-carving power, his unbridled ambition and his worship of the heroic.