MTSU Senior Show
Jacqueline Meeks is one of the people in it, and she had interesting work in a group show at 310 Chestnut a few months ago. The pieces here confirm that she is worth keeping a eye on. She has just three pieces in the show, a video, a sculpture, and a drawing. The video, called Breath, projects separate images of a man and a woman cropped so only their mouth is visible. I’m guessing it’s her and her boyfriend, Ryan Lewis, who also has work in the show. Their faces are pretty still, and you just hear the two of them breathing, and then at intervals they put a sheet of plastic to their faces and open their mouths, breathing in so the plastic gets sucked into the mouth cavity. Then they take off the plastic, close their mouths, wait a bit, and repeat. This performance of suffocation and silencing, if you take it as a reflection of being a couple, could be seen as very cynical about the possibility of relationship, but it also acts as a shared suffering.
Her sculptural piece consists of several white trash bags stuffed with something, laid out on a plastic curtain, lit by a bright lamp hung on a wooden ladder. The elements seem dirty and messy, but well-composed. The bags have the right mass to them, and the curtain and some ropes form a pattern base for them. The lamp gives the idea of surveillance. Her other piece is a drawing in red ink of boy’s legs attached to a shark’s body, the shark body cut away to show its inner organs. It shows she has traditional technical skills and the ability to imagine very detailed images, in contrast to a kind of crudeness in the sculpture.
Ryan Lewis’s pieces in the show are a comic book, a couple of short stories in zine form (about the size of those Joe Chick religious comics), an audio piece and a video that wasn’t playing when I was there. The comics made me think of Daniel Clowes’ complaints about art school not acknowledging comics as a legitimate form. That’s changed. Ryan’s comic started like a diary, cataloging fairly trivial events in a student’s day, but then took form as a story about his grandfather’s death. I liked the way he eased into this narrative, and he does some really smart graphic things with the narrative. The audio piece seemed to be journal notes from maybe his grandmother, talking about her two daughters, performed with a man (presumably Ryan) reading in falsetto the stuff quoting the kids. I wasn’t crazy about this piece as I was listening to it, but it was interesting to think back on. The material in the journal is mundane and does not have a clear narrative, but even so some ideas come up (how does the child understand or express love for the mother). More interesting to think about was the reversal of elevating this non-dramatic material into an obviously dramatized context (the male voice undermines any illusion of verisimilitude). I saw it as a subversion of the idea of drama, and of the material presented for consumption within the modes of drama and narrative.
The last person in the show I’ll mention is Sher Fick. She produced several pieces for the show. Several of them were sculptural assemblages taking things like a gumball machine and a spice shelf and filling them with objects, mostly broken, crushed, or discarded. A number of the pieces included capsules that encased small objects in a dome of acrylic or plastic. Stuff like pieces of toys, a blade of grass, an entrance button from the Neue Gallerie, small bits of flotsam. Dolls, usually broken apart and even crushed figured in a lot of the pieces. There were also some 2D works with images embedded in encaustic. The childhood and domestic imagery were handled with a pleasurable liveliness. One piece that seemed of a different character was called Ashes, Ashes, and consisted of neat piles of stuff arranged on a bed of moss-covered sod. Each pile consisted of different material that from a distance looked like mounds of spices ready for a ceremony, but when you got up close you could make out each was originally –milk glass, a doll, foam stuffing.