Collective Textile Histories in Lexie Abra Johnson’s The Rugmaker’s Daughter

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Install shot of Lexie Abra Johnson’s The Rugmaker’s Daughter at PLUG Projects. Image courtesy of the gallery.

A snapshot of identity through recycled fabrics were presented in Lexie Abra Johnson’s solo exhibition The Rugmaker’s Daughter at PLUG Projects. Abra Johnson deconstructed and reworked old fabrics that can no longer be used in their intended fashion to explore personal family themes and anecdotes hidden in the materials that her work incorporated. By tying these memories to materials, she made me reconsider the state of rapid material culture through her presentation of textiles. This work ultimately reflected on memories that are intrinsically personal and aren’t as straightforward and beautiful as the memories we choose to romanticize. Instead the work focused on the experiences we choose not to share due to complexity or the messiness of human existence.

Install shot of Lexie Abra Johnson’s The Rugmakers Daughter at PLUG Projects. Image courtesy of the gallery.

AA Step 4 by Lexie Abra Johnson.  Image courtesy of PLUG Projects.

Using scraps of denim in different washes, Abra Johnson reworked the material into abstractions that highlighted my own recollections. They sparked personal memories of all of the jeans that one might have owned throughout life, and fosters a sense of wonder where they ended up after the donation pile. The sewn denim collages presented in her AA series have a quaintness to them, while also appealing to a subconscious desire for organization. With the denim being worked into abstract shapes with contrasting patterns and washes, they took on a new aesthetic appeal, it showcases the versatility of the fabric and it’s longevity as a fashion staple.

Install shot of Lexie Abra Johnson’s The Rugmakers Daughter at PLUG Projects. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Install shot of Lexie Abra Johnson’s The Rugmaker’s Daughter at PLUG Projects. Image courtesy of the gallery.

One of the large scale weavings hung on the left side of the gallery, while the other was stationed on the floor in front of it. The weavings, titled Reconstruction and Legacy of Destruction, dealt with interpreting reality differently than the denim. The incorporation of velvet, shag, wool, and other materials into weaving pushed the idea of memories further. The varied fibers provided viewers with more of an experience rather than considering the pieces individually. To me, it appeared as a segment of one large pile of laundry; in it’s messiness, there is something beautiful about all of the materials harmonizing as a singular pile. We all have a vivid memory of textiles like these in our psyches that we either chose to remember, or they affected our emotions so deeply that we can never forget it.

At the exhibition opening, I immediately noticed the experience the large scale weavings provided viewers. It’s placement within the smaller space enacted a strong sensory occurrence beyond the visual aspect. The works’ soft and porous materials created a sound barrier between my left and right side. As my left side was close to it, sound could only be heard from my right, creating a small moment of reflection and pause contrasting the pandemonium of the show’s opening. This directly contrasted with the current, rapidly progressing state of material culture and how because of that, our clothing is thought of as so disposable due to the fast-changing seasonal trends of fashion companies. I view the pieces as reflecting anxieties, only calmed in making a to-do list, I thought about the pieces as tasks I must complete. The complexity of the wall hangings were a haunting reflection of my thoughts during a panic attack, with each material making sense on it’s own, but becoming overwhelming when viewing all the materials at once without time to process them.

Install shot of Lexie Abra Johnson’s The Rugmakers Daughter at PLUG Projects. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Install shot of Lexie Abra Johnson’s The Rugmaker’s Daughter at PLUG Projects. Image courtesy of the gallery.

This work ultimately makes comments on the fashion industry, and how overwhelming it can be for consumers to keep up with the latest trends. The notion of fashion is a rapidly changing, with old trends becoming re-popularized and new ones showing up every season. From my time working in retail, Abra Johnson’s installations reminds me of the seasonal rearrangements; the constant juxtapositioning of items for maximum consumer consumption. Her work brings an anxiety that comes from how disposable fashion is in contemporary culture, but also the value that society assigns it as an overall aesthetic. Whether it’s denim, (something that never goes out of style, it seems) or another quirky material used, they both created a pause which made viewers think about why we value specific fabrics over others. The textiles take on a different meaning when wearing them, versus viewing them on a gallery wall. The dialogue they create between rapid material culture in the 21st century and the pause her simpler works provide highlight the current state of consumer culture in fashion.


The Rugmakers Daughter ran from July 21st through August 26th 2017 at PLUG Projects (1613 Genessee St. KC, MO 64102) for more info please visit https://www.plugprojects.com




The Healthcare Paradox, as Seen Through ‘Care, A Performance’ at La Esquina

The concept of ‘healthy’ contains a multitude of definitions; asking how human society defines the tools of normalcy for our physical and mental states. Pain is an individual sensation, but its resulting effects are felt by all. We see in this exhibition that one’s mobility, disability, debility, illness and institutional access are social. Returning to “normal” is a paradox as the very idea of wellness is reconsidered.

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Cellphone photo by Karl Marks taken in the New York subway system

The state of American healthcare is a series of negotiations and consolations. This exhibition put a human face on what healthcare does for a population; standing in opposition to the current administration. Their obsession with undoing an already existing system without reasonable replacement brings up the human and psychological necessity for human empathy and care.  The healthcare industry’s bottom line mentality concerning wellness doesn’t always jibe with the societal effects. It’s begs the question: ‘How much are we willing to spend on one another?’

At first look, the space was the standard curation of objects and materials; there really wasn’t any central focus on one piece or another. Who suffers more isn’t the right question to ask; pain doesn’t necessarily have a hierarchy. Eyes pitched towards the artists’ construction of new interfaces to existing ideas.  Negotiating a world that demands one-size-fits-all policies requires invention.  

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Care, A Performance installation image courtesy EG Schempf

If there is a takeaway to be understood, it is the human capacity for adaptation. Amongst the Donald Judd-esque bathroom handrails (Constantina Zavitsanos), seeing eye canes (Carmen Papalia), hospital gowns (Hadley Clark) and care instructions (Lynne McCabe), were the aesthetics of human care and its evolution. In a sense, this room was a survival guide. Appropriately so, as there are larger issues at work; these objects of adaptation also prescribe the advancement of the human species.  Now that citizens of Earth have been handed a timetable, the effort to make ourselves into the next form that adapts towards overpopulation, conflict (political, social) and climate change, it is necessary to begin thinking about how the human form will continue to augment itself.

Ben Gould’s live performance, In Ballast, reflecting his experience with Tourette’s Syndrome, was by far the most powerful. It went directly to the core of living with difference. I was more interested in his balletic movement and whether or not he was going to be able to hold the water poured into his cupped hands (He did!).  In the spirit of Eva Hesse, it is important the viewer not “Ask what the work is. Rather, see what the work does.”  We witnessed his experience in stark reality, not perceived in the abstract, which highlighted to the audience that we have been invited to watch as both architect and observer. Do we sympathize or empathize? Our emotions must mitigate the experience to reach a pragmatic extension of Gould’s motions, acknowledging these specific limitations  tell us the limit does not exist.  Rather than focusing on otherness Gould says, “Instead of my spasms being like an engine stalling, they have become an engine.” And thus, is the evolution of humankind’s leap into the future.

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In Ballast by Ben Gould. Image courtesy Patricia Bordallo Dibildox

Photos of implants after the body has been cremated (Sarah Sudhoff, Precious Metal) gave thought to what this might look historically. Before I read the wall text, I assumed they were ancient objects and considered part of a dialogue on  how we’ve always cared for and about the infirm. But the afterlife of prosthetics and augmentations take different routes after death, so Sudhoff’s documentation became a conversation about the rejuvenation and conservation of these artificial elements.

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Face by Samara Umbral. Installation image courtesy EG Schempf

Conversely, the cost of living as yourself (Samara Umbral, Face), put into motion the idea that the human figure does evolve and change according to its personal user interface.  Curiously, it leaves us to wonder what happens should this particular body be cremated after death and what comes of all the secondary and tertiary implants when melted down? Umbral presented a banner highlighting the monetary expense of personal evolution, but it is difficult to discern what else is seen beyond that.  It doesn’t answer whether all these estimates were undertaken or how Umbral felt about the results. It is little more than a bleak shopping list that seems to skim past the psychological considerations of such measured steps.  Face does present a triumph of science that such progress can keep up with the human need for ‘wellness.’ Fitting into a society comprising itself out of matching one’s psychological foundation to these artificial gender binaries with its physical manifestation.

It is not merely enough to be physically on board insomuch as it is to be in sync psychologically as well. There is no such thing as a normal, as we continue to fight for the rights for those with needs, CARE presented this truth. We negotiate trust as a means of survival and the instinct for personal strength, with the capacity for acknowledging society’s needs, is stronger than ever.

 


Care, A Performance was an exhibition curated by Risa Puleo for Charlotte Street’s La Esquina Gallery (July 7-August 5, 2017)




Davin Watne’s Forced Perspective in “Picture the Wall” at Haw Contemporary

Photojournalists work with various media outlets to document our reality. We rely on these images to provide us with an accurate depiction of a story, although the framing will always be subjective. I remain aware how the lens can skew; offering one facet of a story from the journalist’s perspective. On display in the northeast gallery at Haw Contemporary, Davin Watne’s “Picture the Wall” confronted viewers with a large wall of loaded images taken from various media outlets, forcing us to examine the role that we as bystanders, play in these occurrences and observations.

"Picture the Wall" installation. Image Courtesy E G Schempf

“Picture the Wall” installation. Image Courtesy E G Schempf

Standing ten feet tall and spanning the entire room, Watne interpreted widely-recognized photographs, screen captures, and newsreels taken from recent news through oil paint. The images chosen appeared controversial, and appealed to the shock value that grabs attention from audiences and propels 24-hour news cycles. By working directly from these public photos, there is an immediate response akin to the speed at which these sources were produced. Using appropriated photos, observational works and symbols (including flags and screenshots from YouTube videos), Watne engaged viewers with a very specific look at contemporary American culture. More than half of the images chosen related to events dealing with the underlying racism, sexism and xenophobia that speak to the pulse of the nation today. These images have been presented in a manner to be taken as the absolute truth without room for debate. By his choice in imagery, Watne’s implied neoliberal views presented a parallel to Fox News’ far-right zealotry. These media biases have created structures of bigotry of far and wide diverseness. While I agree that dialogue should be opened up regarding these events, Watne’s presentation deterred me from anything that is perceived as bias, as the piece exists in a space where the majority of the viewers seemingly share the same political viewpoints and demographics. Comparable to a montage that introduces a news segment, Watne’s information sharing is quick and aggressive, overcompensating for the people who choose to say nothing at all about the events depicted.

"Picture the Wall" installation. Image courtesy E G Schempf

“Picture the Wall” installation. Image courtesy E G Schempf

His singular point of cultural perspective is something I take issue with. This notion of a fixed and “correct” viewpoint as a base concept is shaky at best, as nothing like that truly exists in a world which is constantly impacted by globalism, whose very definition are evolving ideologies. Hito Steryl, the German filmmaker, visual artist and writer comments, ”all we get from linear perspective is a “one-eyed view from an immobile spectator that is assumed to be natural, objective and scientific,” straying from subjectivity as a whole. With linear perspective defining the state in which everything exists in it’s natural form, it has provided a common basis of understanding shared by the general population. However, this shared understanding of the world is shifting, lending itself to varying perspectives of seeing and understanding concepts. With contemporary media incorporating the use of montage, speculation, and ambiguous information, images are drifting further away from any sense of linearity, losing their sense of time and perspective to the viewer.

"Picture the Wall" installation. Image courtesy E G Schempf

“Picture the Wall” installation. Image courtesy E G Schempf

In an earlier series of work, titled “Life is a Collision,” Watne created paintings depicting the aftermath of car accidents seemingly caused by wild animals. With the news constant and the prevalent existence of 24-hour news channels overabundant, there is a disposable quality to tragedy, much like the materiality of the cars in Watne’s earlier paintings. With this oversaturation of tragedy addressed by news stations, the media starts to lose value in their seriousness as audiences have less time to process and evaluate this constant stream of information. Watne exposes the authority assigned to images by media outlets, while making an often overlooked statement about the general public’s thirst for involvement in tragedies. This is supplemented by the economics of ad sales networks bring in when addressing these tragedies. With television remaining as the primary source for news for 57% of Americans, the ability to attract viewers to news stations gives the media a heightened sense of power over what content they are deploying to their viewers. Watne is functioning as a primary media outlet by highlighting what we should be paying attention to, and what deserves to be ignored. He comments on the problem of incessant news coverage by providing his own viewers with an overwhelming amount of information in an over advert manner, numbing our interest in keeping up with the news rather than staying interested.

"Picture the Wall" installation. Image courtesy E G Schempf

“Picture the Wall” installation. Image courtesy E G Schempf




Uncanny Chaos Under Control at Postmasters Gallery

Our current political climate has brought us to state of deliriousness. We resist these forces of political immorality while becoming passive to its effect or otherwise exhausted from the effort. Conversely, there are artists acknowledging and responding to our collective feelings by taking their work to a place of darkness, that surprisingly shines a light on these conditions.  Two ideas such conditions bring forward were recently shown in the dual exhibition at Postmasters Gallery NYC entitled In G.O.D. We Trust and CON-Figuration (March 18 – April 22, 2017).

The timing is right; these shows were deliberate and crisp as they prod what it means to be making work right now, while also collectively showcasing our media cycle’s lust after violence, absurdity, and darkness. These exhibitions posed some worthwhile questions: do we stay and wade in this grim shade we have surrounded ourselves with? This work offers the means to absorb the reality, giving stark imagery of the history of political disruptions, and although absurd, it is seriously no joke.

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Installation of  In G.O.D. We Trust. Image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery NYC

In G.O.D. We Trust  — G.O.D. standing for Global Obama Devotion—  is the title of a video and accompanying stills stretched on canvas by Chinese-American new media artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung. The room was filled with video game noises you’d hear in an on-screen battle. The sound activated the stills hung around the first room of the gallery, mimicking the motion of the viewer’s eyes as they bounce from one icon to the next in this vivid cut-and-pasted world. These icons included images of former Presidents Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush, along with seven religious prophets that Obama morphs into throughout the course of the video. This created a narrative that outlines the various global and domestic problems the Obama administration faced early on, characterizing one president’s specific struggles out of many others.

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Video Still from In G.O.D. We Trust by Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung. Image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery NYC

The work is loud; the frames were filled with tumultuous images, which had a hypnotizing effect, making one incapable of pulling away from this hyperbolized political reality. Moreover, the comparisons of Obama to seven prophets hyperbolizes him as an idealized savior, placing on the role of the president the duty to somehow save the people. This reliance we the people have on our president to be our “Messiah” is highlighted through this portion of the video, where he morphs into the figure of Jesus Christ and carries the weight of the country’s debt like a cross. To go along with the analogy, if we as believers continually place faith in one with the bigger plan, or a higher power with knowledge unknown to us, we will serve no purpose nor make any changes in this world if we do not act ourselves. Furthermore, in this world of people looking for change, we must be wary of creating and following false prophets, especially ones as human as the president.

In the neighboring room, CON-Figuration features five artists: painters Canyon Castator and Christian Rex Van Minnen, sculptor Agathe Snow, fiber artist Erin M. Riley, and digital media artist Shamus Clisset.

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Installation shot of CON-Figuration. Image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery NYC

While less politically direct, this room was filled to the brim with even more iterations of a deformed reality. At the room’s center, Agathe Snow’s sculptures balanced between the two pillars that cut through the center of the gallery. Insouciant (top hanging figure), Don’t Stress over the Turkey Daddy… (bottom figure in mangled chair structure) and Dad is always stressing about his job (figure on stilts) are uniquely positioned. These bodies reflect their titles of both indifference and stress, every figure weighed down by themselves, barely supported by the structures they lean on, exemplifying the potential apathy that rises out of the effect of stress or anxiety. These long limbed figures mimicked the positions the bodies hold in the paintings sharing the space, all sharing a similar body language that is paused in tension, even in a pose.

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Canyon Castator’s Tipping Point & Christian Rex Van Minnen’s Selfie In Casmate Beneath the Bridge to Better Days I Image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery NYC

Canyon Castator’s Tipping Point (left) contains distorted figures that echo the form of the ghastly figure in Christian Rex Van Minnen’s Selfie In Casmate Beneath the Bridge to Better Days I (right) just across the room. Both painters’ works are redolent of historical paintings which have been twisted into contemporary turmoil. Surreality and skewed perspective within the paintings enthrall me and deliver a space aberrant of typical depictions of the body’s anatomy.

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Installation shot of CON-Figuration. Image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery NYC

All of the works which surrounded Agathe Snow’s in-between space created an environment even more overwhelming; the walls of these bodies showcased as physical manifestations of the potential effects that a polluted world has on the mental and psychological states of a person. The stress is real. Erin M. Riley’s soft, pornographic weavings and Shamus Clisset’s 3D digital renderings of cyborg-looking figures are iterations of digital worlds that remain entirely different from each other. However, in each work I see an element of strength personified in the stances, positions and scale the bodies fill in their frames. The dominance of these figures potentially act a figures of indestructible resistance, although they are still under an affect of the twisting hypocrisy and dimness prevalent; all of the images participated in creating a setting submerged in surreality where the states of the figures became surprisingly real.

The materials and figures in both of these exhibitions twisted and turned in their frameworks; they carried weight. They highlight the dichotomy that exists in American media that can fetishize and normalize violence and demonize sexuality and intimacy. These works have been brought into this dark world, as these artists are perceptive of this reality. We are collectively enamoured with this dark side of reality that effectively transfixes humans into a place that may frighten us to a point where we want to escape this place, even if we have just dipped our toes in a little. When we leave, that is when we have the chance to respond to and resist these responses of darkness, and turn it into light.

These shows, in clear conversation with each other, very successfully iterate a world that has been soaked in social media and its proliferations from “fake news” to virtual reality that are so enticing we can’t tear ourselves away from them. Creating and becoming a part of a community that makes and embraces artwork under the hand of the leader that is taking away important resources, whom I would never consider a prophet, is a way to raise awareness, resistance, and the need for action.




A Material Memoir: Gerry Trilling’s Narrative Atlas

Installation, Gerry Trilling 2016, Dimensions Variable. Image courtesy of the artist.

Installation, Gerry Trilling 2016, Dimensions Variable. Image courtesy of the artist.

When I first encountered Gerry Trilling’s artwork in her studio at Studios, Inc., I came face to face with a fuzzy pink rug that you would expect to find in the dorm of an art student, the proper setting for this material is definitely not in an art gallery. Or is it? Trilling’s work exemplifies her fascination with piecing together narratives through material culture. Her newest show, “Narrative Atlas,” presented viewers with the personal story of her family’s struggle assimilating into American culture after fleeing the Holocaust, winding up in St. Louis by way of Vienna. Using individual covered panels, she created large, multifaceted fabric paintings of unlike materials. Her investigation of people through looking at interiors from their personal spaces created a conversation about the role of material in personal identity.

Upon entering the show, the presentation caught my attention. Beside each installation, a snippet of Gerry’s personal family memories gave viewers insight into each of her relatives’ personalities. As I walked through the space, it felt as though I knew her relatives personally through both the stories being presented and the materials being incorporated.  From the story of Aunt Erna’s food hoarding habits to the broken wind up clock her parents has received as a wedding gift, I felt as though I was at my own family get-together overhearing my relatives talk about their own experiences growing up. I grew to understand the narrative through the presented materials, assigning personalities to them the same as I do people. The fuzzy pink rug began to become more than just a rug, it became my crazy Aunt Kathy who loves drinking copious amounts of wine and playing Battle of the Sexes at family gatherings, and materials such as wire act as a stand in for my grandpa who was in the Vietnam war.

Activated Shelter, Gerry Trilling, 2017, 58x48. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Activated Shelter, Gerry Trilling, 2017, 58×48. Image Courtesy of the Artist

I started to treat the gaps between artwork as a pause to process the story and the roles of the artwork that Trilling set them up to perform. Her use of multiple square and rectangular panels carefully placed in relation to each other function as visual poetry through the use of pauses and moments of reflection, while Trilling takes on a curator’s role through her specific arrangement of the panels.  Taking on both of these positions, what she leaves for viewers to decipher is a complex, personal conversation between her artwork and the text.  She questions how materials function as stand-ins for memories and draws connections between the life that the used material once had, while considering the aesthetic function it is serving in her artwork.

From these relationships, each one of the works can be thought about as a portrait of a person in Trilling’s life, or rather, a self portrait of a facet of her life.  As I think about the characters from the text on the walls, I feel Gerry’s artwork manifesting into a portrait of every family member mentioned.  I start to decipher the embellishment to her narrative the further and further I get through the show, providing comedic comments which give insight into her journey of establishing a life in America and giving an account of her assimilation into American culture.  The psychological link she has created between her life and the gaudy materials she chooses becomes fetishized as she takes into consideration the purpose of the materials outside her personal associations.  Using materials that would more than likely be found in the clearance section of Boca Bargoons, she chooses one-of-a-kind elements that people don’t normally go out of their way to pick out. Instead of curating groups of panels that already fit together due to their color palettes or textures, she chooses to rework them into a separate piece of artwork that incorporates multiple aesthetics from uncommon fabrics.  Choosing the materials carefully, she is rewriting her family’s history through her own eyes, using textiles to be reminiscent of her own family biases.  Like a family, none of the materials Trilling picks out are meant to fit together perfectly, making for a relatable view of family through the histories of the textiles used.

Installation image from Gerry Trilling's Narrative Atlas. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.

Installation image from Gerry Trilling’s Narrative Atlas. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.




Exploring Cultural Memory in The Work of Lyndon Barrois Jr.

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Of Color by Lyndon Barrois Jr. @ Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis. Photo Courtesy of David Johnson

I first encountered Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s work at the CAMSTL where his installation Of Color was exhibited. In the gallery was half a basketball court: fresh, black asphalt with crisp white lines, a hoop, and a basketball. Complicating this construction were structures made of stacked toner boxes and adorned with fragmented halftone catalog photographs of shoes and clothing, each topped with a cardboard cutout of a hat or hair. These sculptures were both figurative, arranged like basketball players on a court, and architectural, like skyscrapers on a city skyline. As a physical space, the installation allowed viewers to move through the court and through the box towers. I interpreted this work as an assertion of legitimacy of the street court as a space for Black expression and culture.

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Of Color by Lyndon Barrois Jr. @ Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis. Photo Courtesy of David Johnson

Barrois’ new work, shown in the exhibition Sensible Disobedience, included a series of four collages, along with three small sculptural pieces. Unlike Of Color, these works didn’t command the entire gallery space, but shared walls with other artists’ pieces, thus creating new contexts. In fact, Oli Watt’s tiny traffic barriers interacted directly with the Barrois’ sculptures. The collages were each on brown chipboard, framed by dark wood: A National Geographic image of a small shirtless Black boy holding a monkey, paper marbled with blue, yellow, red, CMYK test prints, the well-known pangram “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog”—the elements of each collage feel deliberately chosen and arranged. Much like the sculptures in Of Color, these new structures were made of toner boxes and spent toner cartridges. But they were far shorter, and lacked a sense of figurativeness; instead they seemed more formal, bringing to the forefront their materiality as waste products of the printing process. Viewed together with Watt’s traffic barriers, I began to think about printing as means of accessing an audience and having influence, and then who is barred from that by what may feel like hundreds a tiny barriers.

Installation ofLyndon Barrois Jr.'s work in Sensible Disobedience at La Esquina. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Installation of Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s work (also featuring Oli Watt’s barricades)  in Sensible Disobedience at La Esquina. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Barrois evokes cultural memory–that is both collectively and selectively remembered. He allows his viewers to shift their understanding of familiar images, to see them in new contexts. The magazine pictures of the boy and monkey, the tribal women, and the mother and child are immediately recognizable as being from National Geographic. In recognizing the image, I had a number of immediate connotations: I was struck first by a sense of nostalgia for film photography and childhood adventure, then by the voyeurism and exoticization of the subjects of the photos, then by a sense of appreciation of the photos as intimate portraits. Each element in the collage evoked a series of immediate impressions. They were hieroglyphs that contained layers of meaning for each person who views them. Combined, the images can take on different meanings than they do individually. But whatever new meaning they take on, there is still an understanding of each elements on its own.

This understanding of the image by Barrois, both in popular culture and the art historical canon, allows him to subvert the visual representations of each to create other meanings and narratives. Throughout his body of work, he has explored the various methods of manipulating the image—cropping, collage, curation, and juxtaposition. He draws his source material from films, history and art history, popular magazines, and photography. By re-contextualizing found sources, he takes control of existing images and their attached associations and is able to forge messages of his own.

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Installation of Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s work (also featuring Oli Watt’s barricades) in Sensible Disobedience at La Esquina. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Our culture relies on the image to represent the abstract concepts and values that form our identities as individuals and as communities. We use images to define our version of history, to streamline events and perspectives too vast and inexact to capture. This makes the image a powerful tool. It designates within a culture, what is beautiful—and therefore what is ugly—, what is good—and therefore what is bad—, what is desirable—and therefore what is detestable. The image reinforces accepted aesthetic values until they are considered truth.

Barrois’ work reminds us that images, and our associations to them, are manufactured, not inherent, and the repeated use of the toner box and repeated reference to the CMYK process signifies that. It is possible to use the CMYK process to only ever create one color, but that singularity does not represent its ability to make many hues. In creating totems from the remnants of the process—the empty ink cartridges and packaging—he illustrates an ordinary origin of the images that our culture reveres. The printed words on the boxes, turned outward toward to viewer and that read “waste box”, describe warnings, and show illustrated instructions, invites us to question the ultimate authority of images, as they are created by people as fallible as ourselves.

 




Light and Dark, Sight and Sound: Janet Cardiff- 40 Part Motet Meets The Photographs of Dave Heath

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Image of Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet. Image courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan.

Walking through the Nelson-Atkin’s contemporary wing, you could hear the gently building reverberation of Janet Cardiff’s 40-Part Motet. This sound piece and Multitude, Solitude: Photographs of Dave Heath were advertised as a joint exhibition, but the synergy of both shows became a happy accident.

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Washington Square, New York City, 1958. by Dave Heath. Gelatin silver print, 12 1/2 x 8 3/8 inches. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2005.37.207. 

Motet is the stronger of the two, creating a joyful sound experience which brightened Heath’s somber portraiture. His Multitude, Solitude are a collection of mostly black and white photographs from 1931-2016, that dealt with themes of human loneliness, “loss, uncertainty, pain, love and hope.” While Heath’s work awoke human despair, leaving me raw, Cardiff’s work functioned as a salve, restoring hope that even in this broken, violent world, we are still deeply interconnected.

The arrangement of both shows had Heath’s photography exhibition first. If one wanted to bolt straight to Cardiff’s sound piece, as I did, you still needed to pass by his work first which sets up an emotional tone for the viewer. Multitude, Solitude included photographs projected on the wall and torn out pages from a book. Framed portraits, also too small, hung wall to wall, and digital flip books of Heath’s work were presented at center.

Undeniably beautiful, Heath’s street photography captures the fleeting transition between emotions that can occur in public, but which most rarely witness; capturing a secret smile, a glimpse of joy or a moment of loneliness.

However, the weakest aspect of this show was its set up. Torn-out book pages were framed in such a way they cut off portions of several images and the digital archive of Heath’s photography looked like an afterthought. The curator crowded the room with similar imagery when strong editing could have made the very same points with more elegance. This abundance of repetition made it difficult to decipher the overall strength of his work, and was more likely a disservice to his keen photographic eye. Selecting a few of Heath’s strongest works from each decade would have been a simpler approach. Although it is unclear whether or not the two exhibitions were meant to be viewed in tandem, giving more consideration to an intended interaction between Heath and Cardiff’s work would have elevated the creative synergy from both artists.

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Image from Heath’s Multitude, Solitude. Image courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The audience become voyeurs with Multitude, Solitude, witnessing archived loneliness in the faces of passers-by. With each wrinkled brow or teary stare, we get a glimpse of humanity’s  daily suffering, how one can feel isolated in a crowd, or even the task of getting through the day. These images tear into that part of our hearts where walls are built, the sensitive core that makes us turn off the news or avoid eye contact. Photography gets painfully close to the truth,  illuminating how frequently we gloss over moments of pain with desperate optimism.

Outside the 40 Part Motet, a wall of note-cards provided museum-goers an opportunity to record their thoughts right after any epiphanous moment. Overarching themes of connectivity and spirituality came through, despite the variety of backgrounds and beliefs. Though I am skeptical Nelson curators went into enough depth examining the conceptual interaction between the two exhibits, these notecard reflections epitomized the Multitude, Solitude of Heath’s work. “Motet” transcends human understanding of this world, of art, of music, even of religion. With Heath’s work, one begins to think one understands what it means to be human, and that much of the time it can be unpleasant. Cardiff’s work, on the other hand, takes us out of our deep-seated cynicism and competitive mentality without washing away our individuality or community.

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Image of Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet. Photo Credit: Maddie Murphy.   

My best friend and I entered the Motet space together, then quickly split up, allowing us to have separate experiences not influenced by our friendship. We walked in near the end of the recording, but it played on a loop every fourteen minutes or so. 40-part Motet is a collection of inward-facing speakers arranged in an oval, where visitors can sit on benches, stand, or walk around the interior. The speakers are arranged in eight groupings, for the eight different choirs recorded. Every speaker has its own a cappella voice from England’s Salisbury Cathedral Choir, singing in Latin. Surrounded by these speakers, the audience became a silent hive. It was refreshing in that the reverence for the music went beyond modern museum etiquette. No one had their phones out for photography or recording, an anomaly. It was as if they were in a place of worship. Some stood, meditating before one speaker, some walked methodically in thought around the room, some sat on benches, some even sat cross legged on the carpet, with closed eyes. I couldn’t find words to describe this energy yet, but it had something to do with peace, with connectivity, and it was transforming the space.

The combination of 40 voices struck me immediately, giving me goosebumps as the song swelled from a soft hum to a booming wave of vibration and sound. I stood at center for a moment, already tearing up, and closed my eyes to feel the energy of the room. Due to its circular arrangement, Cardiff’s work enveloped the audience, as if we had entered inside the music itself.

It was deeply important that I absorb every vibration. Forty individual voices with unique inflections blended into sharp, clear sopranos, deep basses and baritones, and sweet tenors. I imagined the speakers were people, not technology and they were singing directly to both me and a higher power. I became the most emotional when the intensity increased and the harmonies hit full blast. I forgot where I was and who I was with, the beauty of the work stirred a sad, aching joy of happy tears. My fellow listeners and I became vulnerable, perhaps experiencing contemporary art of this genre for the first time. Looking around the room, people of all ages and ethnicities were present, many with the same misty-eyes I had. Just as the multitude of voices combined into one voice, never losing the variety of tones and voice types, we became one, never losing what made us uniquely ourselves.

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Image of Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet. Image courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan.

I recognized the potential for universality, especially after reading audience reactions, which ranged from “God spoke to everyone here,” to “Namaste,” to a nearly blank card with a tiny word, “Wow.,” written at the bottom corner. Performed in a language few know, the audience relied solely on emotional energy to comprehend the song.

I spotted one girl, likely near my own age, sitting cross legged on the floor, eyes closed and weeping. I sensed she was deeply spiritual like I am. But I let it go, understanding this was one of those fleeting moments similar to Heath’s work in the next room.

At the intermission, the recorded singers began speaking to one another, a different sort of bubbling chorus. We could hear a young choir member saying she had to use the bathroom. The other members discussed the weather, coughed, laughed, and warmed up their voices. It was these sort of breaks that changed the tone of the piece and the audience was pleasantly startled by this sudden inclusion of humanity. It also broke the tension in our atmosphere too;  people began speaking, our own voices united with the chorus. Based on Cardiff’s interviews, I don’t know that she intended this inclusion as an opportunity for the audience to relax, though it functions as such. Cardiff wanted to highlight the way run-of-the-mill human speaking voices can metamorphose into an angelic choir in a single breath.

During my research it became apparent how much this musical sculpture could transform its surroundings based on the work displayed. In The Art Gallery of Ontario, Motet was situated near a collection of spotlit abstract sculptures. At the Nelson, Cardiff’s piece stood alone visually, but the sound carried into different exhibits. Placing Motet on its own prevented visual distraction, but sound can rarely be contained between dividing walls. While other works could not disrupt Motet, Motet radiated out into surrounding galleries. I’m not certain Heath’s Multitude, Solitude would stay in memory when Motet washed over the room, but when I forced myself to see the photo exhibit, I couldn’t get the music out of my mind.

Though Cardiff’s Motet had traveled across many continents, it remained a remarkably universal, immersive experience. Reactions to the work touched on it’s spiritual nature, calling it “a choir of angels in heaven” or “a connection with God.” Other notes commented on how it united the room, even the world, reminding us how our different voices come together as one humanity. Most artists struggle to communicate ideas or emotions visually or through sound; Cardiff is a master of both. What makes 40-Part Motet so revolutionary is that it doesn’t require us to decipher by listening or by seeing, but rather requires us only to feel.  Multitude, Solitude also made us feel the  power in its honesty and leave us to ask, what is the solution to suffering?  Motet was cathartic, fourteen minutes of healing I wished could be a daily practice. Works like these offer a way to recover enough to find our own answers.


Janet Cardiff’s 40-Part Motet and Multitude, Solitude: Photographs of Dave Heath were temporary exhibits at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which ran from November 19, 2016 to March 19th 2017.




Woman’s Work: A Conversation with Misty Gamble on Decade

Blue Sunday

Blue Sunday by Misty Gamble. Ceramic, pearls, rhinestones, beads. Image courtesy of the artist.

The invitation to peer inside women’s underwear is hard to resist. Strewn across the gallery wall, the ceramic artist Misty Gamble’s confrontational “Blue Sunday” stimulates a reaction of curiosity and repulsion. Shaped like they were just removed and left crumpled on the floor, the ceramic panties expose a strip of fabric rarely glimpsed in a public setting, sparkling and colorful with costume rhinestones pasted to the private interior. The installation suggests a body, and the inner functions of a body, without introducing the figure herself. A simultaneous desire to approach and avoid means “Blue Sunday” successfully interfaces with our own sexual desire, since we are not looking at newly shed intimates, but baked clay in disguise as lingerie. We find ourselves in the physical Uncanny Valley where the subjects of “Decade,” ten years of Misty Gamble’s agitated feminine expressions, become real enough to raise questions.

Forevermore by Misty Gamble. Ceramic, flocking, Ralph Lauren gold metalic paint. Photo credit: E.G. Schempf

Forevermore by Misty Gamble. Ceramic, flocking, Ralph Lauren gold metalic paint. Photo credit: E.G. Schempf

Our meeting at YJ’s offers an interestingly contextual  view of bright white BRIDE text in the window across the street, a falsely angelic glow advertising wifehood like a sought-after brand in the dark evening. It’s an appropriate backdrop for a conversation with an artist who spent her life thinking about desire, traditions, and what it means to be female. Across the small table, Gamble recounts the creation of her huge wall installation, “Forevermore.” “This was finished in 2016, but it took a year and a half and a lot of hands to make. ‘Forevermore’ is only a fraction of what we actually produced in the studio,” she lays her hand on the image of the lilac ceramic wedding cakes between snaking gold ribbons, installed vertically on the Leedy-Voulkos main gallery wall. “I did these in the symbolic colors of bridesmaids: lavender and white. I criticize conventional ideas of what makes people happy, such as being a bride, having glamorous weddings, the notion that more is always better.”

More is better in the case of the installation. Almost every piece in the show employs the use of multiples to overwhelm an idea and drive the viewer to consider what limits we will go to to have excessive wealth and status. At a distance, “Forevermore” becomes an illusion of wallpaper that has sprung up out of the second dimension. The gold material woven between the lilac cakes outlines an unmissable vulvar shape, locking in the inseparable bond between societal decadence and primal desire. Ceramic wedding cakes direct the conversation to a ravenous hunger for social authority, and one of the means of acquiring it.

Excessively adorned hairdos and desserts exude a passion for wealth, status, and sexual parading. Figures are grotesque and out of proportion, but still decked out in facsimiles of the finer things. Gamble’s unflinching criticism is rooted in her formative years. Rather than damn outright the norms of wealthy Palm Beach and Los Angeles trophy wives, Gamble adopts the role of cultural anthropologist to observe the ways consumerism and lifestyle are inextricably linked by status, which changes color and shape in each location. Palm Beach is garish and bright. LA is fashionable and severe. “I used the Kardashians for some of my research to find out what women of a certain status want from the world. But it’s odd to be commenting on it, and to come from it, make work about it, satirize it, and want to sell it,” she considers. “I always knew I would make the work I wanted to make, and nobody was going to stop me, because the only thing I want to be is authentic.” Authenticity itself is under the cultural microscope of Gamble’s studio. The disheveled piles of pastel pumps borrow imagery from every women’s department store in the nation. The artist’s name in a Kate Spade-esque font inscribed on the inner arch denotes factory-processed shoes at an affordable price. As style consumers, we too can wear cheap and reasonable heels out into the world, provided we don’t mind them coming apart after their factory set sturdiness has worn off. Lucky for us, fashion is easy to replace.

Tan Hands by Misty Gamble. Ceramic, resin. Photo credit: Dan Wayne

Tan Hands by Misty Gamble. Ceramic, resin. Photo credit: Dan Wayne

The same fascination with the lifestyle of the rich and vapid amplify “Tan Hands,” a series of nineteen hands sticking out of the wall, showcasing gaudy faux diamond rings, in a manner a woman with such a rock might exhibit to her friends. Prim and dainty, fingers stiff and angled down to give the admirer a better look at the towering stone atop a gold band, “Tan Hands” explores the culture of pride that comes with following convention. But even with a rotation of studio assistants through the years, Gamble cast her own hands for the piece, uncovering another layer of personal history in the procession of wives-to-be. “I’ve been one of them,” she says, flexing her retired piano hands. “I’ve come from these worlds, but I was always the outsider.” As an outside observer, Gamble’s comments could be misconstrued into bitchiness if one neglects to consider the intellectual analysis the artist subjects herself and her topics to. None of us are really outside the reach of pretty things, of being liked by our peers. “Tan Hands,” like other work in the show, examines a type of solution to our cultural insecurities in a personal manner.

Betsy After School by Misty Gamble. Ceramic. Image courtesy of the artist.

Betsy After School by Misty Gamble. Ceramic. Image courtesy of the artist.

Misty Gamble grew up in Los Angeles, where the lines between culture, class, and kitsch are more blurred than in the Midwest. While she was pursuing her MFA in San Francisco, she earned the reputation as a troublemaker in the male dominated ceramic program. “I did different things to antagonize my professors. I set out to make work that was so beautiful and terrible in its horrendousness, that it couldn’t be avoided. Women are told throughout their lives: be pretty, be smart, get educated. But for god’s sake don’t make any waves.” The figures in “Decade” evoke a visual puppetry without the strings, but the gesture of her subhuman figures recall the unsettling weightlessness that animates a marionette. Metaphorical strings attached to each woman and woman-like caricature are socially imposed by the greedy clamoring of society to have more, to prove more with frivolity. “Sweet Terror” came out of this drive to challenge what society expected of women and women artists. The childlike figures in “Sweet Terror” are at once humorous and terrifying, like demonic waifs escaped from a personified version of daily insecurities. The green teen on roller skates, “Betsy After School,” reacts to her environment by messily eating dessert in the middle of the floor, one hand stuffed underneath the folds of her pleated skirt. All the figures in “Sweet Terror” linger somewhere between real and imagined, on the cusp of becoming human, but denied by their desires and the imposing expectations of the environment they were born into.

Gamble’s ten year retrospective is presented at the perfect time, and every piece in the show is worth seeing. Today, femininity is continuing to be redefined by strength and courage, and the bold figurative work in “Decade” is a reprieve from the enigmatic conceptualism that dominates a male-driven scene. “People are so scared and fearful, and that’s the last thing we should be right now. I’m going to keep making this work because I won’t be bullied,” Gamble says of recent political events and the timeliness of the show. I nod in agreement, recalling the stoic busts “Decadence” and “Luxuriant,” two perfectly styled figures whose hair denies each a chance to speak or listen.  


Misty Gamble “Decade: Selected works from 2006-2016” is on view through April 1st at Leedy-Voulkos Main Gallery (2012 Baltimore Ave, KCMO  Hours: Thurs-Sat 11-5)




A Reflection on Cord Spinning (Working Towards Patching Holes in the Veil) A Performance by Goo Witch

This piece was part of Part of FLESH CRISIS: Pop Up Performance Series at The Drugstore Thursday, January 19, at 7 PM – 9 PM


Everyone was clumped in groups around the periphery of the Drugstore’s front gallery. The mood was jovial, except for a ritual-like circle of woo in the middle of the space where no one dared to stand, as if it was a cursed or holy ground. Between the multi-colored tufts, there were spice jars, containing what appeared to be herbs, onion skins, smelling salts, dirt, and some unidentifiable natural materials. This stage for the impending performance kept the audience holding up both walls.

During this pop-up performance series, several performances took place simultaneously, including works by Christina Silvius and Wolfgang Bucher. Musical artists Valerie Kuehne and the Wasps Nests performed, as did King of Herrings. These layered performances brought its own level of energy that wound up impacting the intensity of one another. I particularly connected with Goo Witch’s piece, her Cord Spinning performance and practice as a whole.

Two people dressed entirely in black entered the circle. They began spinning the wool into yarn on handheld spindles made with a slice of tree bark. The artist, the Goo Witch (Shelby Burchett) began speaking in a calm, even voice, “We are making a spell. Grab some materials and we will spin it into yarn.” The rest of the piece was silent.

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Shelby Burchett, “The Goo Witch,” Photo credit : Maddie Murphy

Glancing uneasily at one another, we hoped someone would make the first move. Someone did step forward, and the crowd soon began carefully treading nearer the circle, in reverent fashion. We crushed onion skins and lay them in the wool, presenting a crackling sound and a bitter smell you could almost taste. Someone put what looked like salt in the wool. As more people participated, the spell’s ingredients created an intoxicating scent, sharp and bitter at first, then sweet. My head rang, and I felt lightheaded, reminding me of incense used to create an augmented spiritual state.

Watching the artists spin became hypnotic. As more people engaged the work, the scents and smells intensified, and we all became part of this ritual. The audience interaction played an important role, keeping the performance from becoming overly precious and inaccessible.

Fellow witch and Fiber artist Robin Cossel spins wool into yarn. Photo credit: Maddie Murphy

Researching Burchett’s work, I discovered her choice of materials for this event made sense. She used animal fibers, plant matter, and human hair, all natural materials linking her rituals to the earth. However, I had a hard time uncovering meaning from the ritual’s spice jars. Their uses were not readily clear. Perhaps the artist intended to preserve some mystery and labels might make things too literal. However, any symbolic meaning of the onion skins and herbs needed to be read in that moment. Keeping information intentionally obscure does ask the audience to take a leap of faith, but this point is where audience ought to rely upon her expertise.

Cord spinning is a very old form of magic where chords are braided while concentrating on a desired end. Burchett’s spell focused on “positive and radical change, inclusion, and feminine power.” Printed pamphlets that explained her spiritual practices and detailed the materials’ symbolism were placed on tables at the back of the room. They were very helpful in understanding the symbolic ritual of Burchett’s piece, but their placement was not optimal. The audience would have been better served if she had them either consult the handouts first or place them in closer proximity to her wool circle.  So, while we were asked to place trust in Goo Witch that her rituals would resolve the questions she presented, we were also reliant upon these handouts for exposition.

Meeting in my studio, Burchett described art as “the act of making something that needs to be shown.” Historically, she has focused on time-based installation work, such as her Goo Corridor, but this was the first piece she expressly labeled as performance. “I realized I needed to be making performance work when I was working toward my MFA,” Burchett explained, “when all my time based work required me to be physically present and interacting with the piece.”

Burchett also explores the mythology and Magick rooted in textile crafts, relating her role of female maker to spiritual femininity and the making of one’s own alchemy.  Magick is another word for spiritual power, a force of nature like gravity. There are different views as to whether or not Magick violates the laws of nature, or is a law we cannot yet explain scientifically. Witchcraft is highly personal, and often requires devotion to research, meditation, along with trial and error to discover what works best for each witch. This is a spiritual practice about harnessing the power inside of a person to influence the world around them. Witchcraft exalts women, says Burchett, and is structured towards equality as a fluid system of beliefs. Burchett’s interest in femininity came through by employing two femme-presenting people as performers, and by titling herself “witch,” a traditionally female-gendered term.

The audience participates in Burchett’s spell. Photo credit: Maddie Murphy.

Growing up, Burchett began to find power in the feminine while struggling with her own identity and this strengthened her spirituality. Magick offers women power where other systems or entities fall short, thus, witches are not stuck in the patriarchy of Western ideals. Magick upsets the notion that women are subordinate to men, and actually asserts that femininity has its own unique strength. Historically, female witches or those perceived as witches have been persecuted for their beliefs, even killed because of them.  Shelby uses textiles processes once dismissed as “women’s work” as a source of power, combining them with Magick, which draws on the energy of her feminine spirit. Is seems possible that the reason female witches were and still are seen as threatening is because of how they embrace their feminine power, which dismantles the status quo.

Burchett and I openly discussed our own spiritual experiences and ideas of a higher power. I could feel the energy exchanged between us as two spiritual women, and felt respected and validated by Burchett. It was surprising how similar some of our spiritual experiences had been. As a devout Christian who in some ways rejects my traditional “religious” upbringing, I could relate to Burchett’s experience of growing up “very Christian.” She explained that her spirituality didn’t go away, but eventually found her place in Magick. Though we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on this subject, I found comfort in a shared passion for our beliefs. Our traditions look very different, but we both felt the presence of a holy force, one she felt was divinely feminine. Whether we call it the Holy Spirit or Goddess, I knew we were both chasing the same thing.

Details of Burchett’s wool and herb materials. Photo credit: Maddie Murphy




Misty Gamble’s Decade of Femininity and Indulgence

Placed around the gallery are sculptural forms of women that defy presumed standards of beauty coexisting with ceramic bedazzled panties. Within these offsetting representations of femininity lie truths about beauty, all held within a thick coat of Rococo pizazz.  Misty Gamble’s ten-year retrospective, Decade, at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, takes a critical stance on the problems of womanhood, indulgence, and modern day communication. A current professor at School of Foundations at the Kansas City Art Institute, Gamble’s work fetishisizes the cultural critique of women, while challenging the current status quo of communication in present time.  

The interesting part lies where these two ideas merge to create one societal commentary.  Women are used in advertising to sexualize everything, from hamburgers to high end cars.  Selling through the lens and seduction of the body activates the desire of consumers.  Gamble is taking our knowledge of this and exploiting it; we are aware of our tendencies to be attracted to things that look good on the exterior, while the interior tells a more haunting truth. The work also provides a disturbing look at the reality of women’s lived experience, mainly in the realm of body image and introspection.  There lies a strong contrast between Gamble’s figures and the thin, photoshopped celebrity ideals that are at the heart of American culture. These psychological connections bring about a disturbing, yet real narrative of the lives of women who exist outside society’s connotations of beautiful.

Photo of Nelly Has Scissors. Photo by Erin Woodworth.

Nelly Has Scissors by Misty Gamble. Photo by Erin Woodworth.

The superficial surfaces of seductive color Gamble uses wisely, making us get close, look deep, and see figures with truths that are haunting, painful and close to reality.  This work stands in contrast to the fixated realms of body image. Deeper psychological connections are brought to the surface and illuminate the lives of women who exist outside society’s strict rules of beautiful.

In viewing this body of work as individually, the themes of feminism, cultural critique, and capitalist overindulgence appear.  The celebratory use of gender-specific objects woven with glitter and sequins provide a flashy take on womanhood that we normally don’t get to embrace without the fear of criticism.  In all of Gamble’s depictions, they are sculpted with a hand of sympathy.  Gamble simulates the lived experience of womanhood through the facial expressions and body positionings of the figures.  The most emotion provoking and haunting gazes lie in the eyes of her full-body sculptures, depicting figures of different ages as sleep-deprived zombies.  Each one of these works provides a snapshot of the playfulness and compliance that every good woman is expected to possess.      

Photo of Indulgence & Succulence. Photo by Erin Woodworth.

Photo of Indulgence & Succulence by Misty Gamble. Photo by Erin Woodworth.

While her work draws references to physicalities and bodily deformations, Gamble also sheds light on the psyche of women.  In her sculptural busts, the identity of the figures is taken over by the unrealistic standards imposed on them.  These pieces usually contain abstracted cranial deformations or something the audience can grasp as concrete, such as cupcakes. Gamble’s work reveals private conflicts inside the mind of a woman, mainly in her use of gesturing and sexual objectification. This creates tension between the viewers and the work, as some of the pieces are hard to face for long.  It is important to witness is the extreme, personal connection viewers form with each one of these works.  We can either relate to the emotional state of the figures, or to the trance you’re brought into as you’re encompassed in them while you come together with various states of the human gaze.  

Photo of Betsy. Taken by Erin Woodworth.

Betsy by Misty Gamble. Photo Credit: Erin Woodworth.

Overall, Gamble challenges the stereotype of women by exposing the underlying fetishes and their flirtation with disaster.  By exploring the psyche of an individual, she distinguishes the various levels of consciousness we possess, and acknowledges the struggles we face ethically as humans capable of change.  Gamble’s exhibition has a conversation with the contemporary political climate, as her work shifts throughout this showcased decade.  With the ethical stances held by the majority of America seemingly shifting backwards in progress, we face the problem of gender equality being exploited even more than it was under previous administrations.  Gamble’s work shifts the conversation from the acknowledgement of the divide and it’s prominence within a contemporary context, to making a comment on the emotional tolls that challenge has on women and their individual psyches.


Misty Gamble: Decade runs from January 6th, 2017- April 1st, 2017 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center. More info on the exhibition can be found here