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.