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Feminine wiles

The Fem-In-Us show at Artlink

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader

2011-08-21


For nearly a decade, Motherlode Group, a curatorial collective based in Fort Wayne, has been producing some of the most exciting regional survey exhibitions, based around a sometimes ambiguously gendered template. Originally constructed to promote the work of women in the local arts scene, Motherlode has expanded its view to one of a more open-ended, inclusive aesthetic that deals with the artists reaction to, exploration of, or obsession with some aspect of femininity. This art is produced by any gender and the general feeling to their exhibitions has some aspect of humor with the addition of phrases like "You don't need an ovary to participate when X and Y co-habitate.”

In the most recent exploration of femininity through art, Motherlode Group brings us "Fem-In-Us", an abbreviated form of "Feminine in all of us", which takes the form of a large invitational group exhibition containing some of Fort Wayne's old guard, emerging, and new-comer artists. This exciting, cross-disciplinary, inquisitive body of art is a wonderful exhibition of how third wave feminism intersects with art theory to create a product greater than the sum of its parts. "Fem-In-Us" gently reminds the viewer of issues facing women, and educates them about the ever-changing identity of the feminine, while making all of this accessible and humorous.

"Fem-In-Us" includes beautiful pieces of art from artists like Daniel Dienelt, some of which aren't necessarily reminiscent of his signature style; a portrait of a vestal woman by Katie M. Moore; and humorous, almost cartoonish images by Justin Henry Miller. While "Fem-In-Us" is full of other excellent artists like Suzanne Galazka, John Gruse, Justin Johnson, Amanda Joseph, Mary Klopfer, and Dominick Manco, there were a few artists whose work was able to make a strong presence both visually and conceptually within the broad context of the exhibition. Artists like Sommer Starks, Jeremy McFarren and Erin Patton, Amy Reff, Michelle Diller offer works which reach deep into art history and visually hold their own in this exceptionally strong exhibition.

Sommer Starks was given another rare chance to let her installation work shine with three pieces, each distinct, but carrying Starks' signature brand of unnervingly combining material and concept to produce a somewhat creeping feeling which stays with the viewer after they explore the pieces. "The Mother Load" greets the viewer as they enter the gallery, in the form of multiple mixed mixed cerebral structures hanging from the ceiling, inhabiting some sort of space in between birth, life, and death. "Molter No. 3-10" an installation of multiple smaller pieces, mixes high minimalistic gridded sculptural forms with post-minimal process based organic structures in the form of webs of human hair, lint balls, and scraps of string. "Hair Story" a combination of both human and synthetic hair, is a wonderful installation that is visually read in a similar manner to a written text, likely the title's reference, or another visual language like sheet music. These "verbal" and "linguistic" chunks of weave reference a distinctly feminine narrative, but the abstracted nature allows the viewer to question more than answer the piece.

Michelle Diller's three photographic pieces, "The Heel Pop," "The Educated Stance," and "The Leisurely Stroll" are all headless feminine forms focusing on the posture and clothing of these unidentified women. While each image produces a somewhat stereotypical female concept through the wearing of dresses and in-general “girlie” clothing, and proper and demure physicality, they also represent more modern ideas of a woman's role. The blatant but quiet inclusion of the female figures being very conscious of their body and ability to flirt, the importance of education, and lack of domestic constraints all represent a contemporary identity. Diller's powerful restraint allows her work to invite the viewer in and then imprint them.

Amy Reff's "Skanky Hankys" entitled "Floozy," "Bitch," and "Skank" are exactly what they sound like. These word-based embroidered art pieces are formally incredibly beautiful, including the appropriated handkerchief patterns with the directly placed words and all of the baggage they represent for woman-kind. This re-appropriation of words in combination with appropriation of physical objects is incredibly clever, and adds an almost Duchampian "assisted ready made" aspect to the work.

Finally, Jeremy McFarren and Erin Patton's installation "Glimpse," a composition of seven sewing circle frames which at first seem somewhat common. Upon further inspection, this husband and wife artist collaboration brings pieces that become interesting abstractions both two and three dimensional. The lacy fabric stretched across the frames partially covers abstracted drawings which lay on the other side of the frame, creating a hollow space with graphic picture planes on either side. The viewer is then challenged to see the art inside the objects, interacting with the pieces as conduits to see the art. The total piece is read as an object which both obscures and draws out the total image, itself a producer of third piece within the artwork, being the relationship of the viewer to the sculptural object.

"Fem-In-Us" effortlessly creates one of the most interesting and conceptually diverse exhibitions of 2011, finding ways to bring about both feminine and universal ideas to the viewer. This stimulating experience continues throughout the whole exhibition and shows just how strong our arts community can be.

*Special Note:This will be Artlink's final exhibition in the Hall Community Center after nearly two decades in this space. In October, Artlink will be moved to the Auer Center for Arts and Culture.


Fem-In-Us
Artlink
August 19-September 25, 2011
Opening: August 19, 6-9pm.
For more information, visit www.artlinkfw.com

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