Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Art of Not Leaving the House

The Day Sondra Bird Was Born, The
Cicada Sang
, performed by Vicki Fowler
photo: Ryan Bach
The day before Mother’s Day 2014 Christa and I met up on Chicago’s Southside, in the Bridgeport neighborhood, to take a guided tour of the exhibition / salon Left the House. This invitation-only event was curated and organized by Vicki Fowler, and works by twenty four artists were presented in situ amongst the furniture, toys, pets, kitchen sink and shower curtains of the home that she shares with her partner and their infant daughter.

Christina Cosio's Sticky Rice
photo: Ryan Bach
Printed materials interspersed throughout the show, such as hand written letters or photocopied zines, were available to handle and viewers were encouraged to read them aloud. These pseudo–performative moments worked in contrast to the hospitality performances featuring mixed drinks on hand-written coasters (Trevor Martin) and sticky rice cooked up from a family recipe (Christina Cosio). Similarly, one might duck into a darkened office space and listen to an intensely raw audio recording by Anne-Marie Lindquist or step out onto the back porch and participate in Rebecca Parker’s graceful laundry-folding dance using sweet smelling, just-out-of-the-dryer bedsheets.
I Leave You In Good Hands, folding warm sheets
with Rebecca Parker. photo: Ryan Bach

With apartment galleries a perpetual hot topic in the city, it’s interesting to note that Fowler’s home functioned as one, going by the name Mutherland coincidentally, from 2007-2009. Although oftentimes apartment galleries end up mimicking the white cube of commercial galleries or contemporary art spaces, there was no such pretense here. It was interesting to experience an exhibition so deeply and unapologetically enmeshed within a domestic dwelling that also featured work that depicted or engaged with issues surrounding domesticity, the role of the
Kelli Connel's My Head
Under Her Shirt
hung over
the sleeping baby's crib.
photo: Ryan Bach
caregiver, the agency of the child, and the grisly and euphoric mixture of emotions that embody parenthood.

Admittedly, some of the works on view were alienating in their specificity, while others blended so well with the pre-existing stuff of living that guides periodically leaned in to explain a piece we’d just walked by. Overall, the project’s premise was an extremely earnest one, and a profoundly intimate gesture of creative generosity. Left the House illustrated that you don’t have to miss much by being homebound if — as Fowler did — you bring the outside in.

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Thea Liberty Nichols is a curator and writer from Chicago.

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