Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

we are woven at the Pickle Company


Chrysalis by Moey Nelson photo by JP Jesperson

The Pickle Company, home to TRASA Urban Arts Collective, is host to two unique installations this month. Directors Brandon Garcia and Kristina Robb, along with Kenny Riches, guest curator and former owner of Kayo Gallery, presen Aerial, by brothers David and Mathieu Ruhlman, and we are woven, by a collaborative group of four artists. The continuity of the two installations is evident in a common underlying theme: the interconnectivity of people, their trinkets and relics, and the intrinsic and created memories of each. we are woven reveals a much more intimate, personal, and overtly feminine aspect of this concept.

In we are woven, Allison Baar, Moey Nelson, Sherri Pauli, and Jenni Lord collaborated to create an inviting yet evasive glimpse into the house of womanhood. A home that slowly opens and unfolds, cryptically and brazenly unearthing secret recesses and residual pieces of childhood that weave these women together. Moving through the installation is like an odyssey, a venture through a person… a woman. The viewer stands at the implied entry of the home, invited, by a small card propped on the chest, to explore and yet somewhat uninvited by the illustrated fact that this is a place for a family of which the viewer is no part. The sort-of table of contents that is the entry is intriguing; passers want to move through, inspecting photographs and reading enticing tidbits of sentiments, framed and displayed. Once the process begins, so many intricacies become apparent: there is a deeply rooted, intense dialogue between this tightly woven group, and at times the conversation is almost accessible, while at other times it may only be viewed as a voyeur through a window.

Starting in the bedroom of a little girl, you can identify with common memories, and see the starting place for ideas and aesthetics that will manifest in the woman later. When you move into the kitchen, things become more personalized and cryptic and lived in. A place where things were concocted, sifted and sorted, pieced together, eaten and discussed, to be metabolized and utilized in the more obscure fibers and vessels of the whole. The next passage is just that: a hallway of tense transition, of re-sizing and realization. No longer a small being, not yet a grown one. The impossibly tiny, handmade article, knit of an austere gray yarn, seems unsuitable for a child, but too small for an adult woman. It perches in its awkwardness next to a narrative of pictures that tenderly seem to reveal the discovery of another body—languid and lengthening — that has changed and come into contact with another. Silent and softly lit, these fragments of time and body parts hint at the next epoch. The spaces that follow are inhabited by fawn, elegant and feminine, exposed but mysterious; photos rearranged and written over, as if to document the journey; lace and tattered paper; and evidence of a fire. It’s as though something was ignited which burned fervently for a brief moment and was abruptly extinguished, leaving its carbon foundation exposed to grow into something else. Finally, at this core is the closet. It hosts a very private revelation shrouded in lace and words. It presents an extremely charged subject that the viewer can opt to enter into, one to which they are completely oblivious if they do not. You are confronted with a special, torrid, and raw display — the most taboo, ineffable, and innate facet of being a woman. Shown not in order to gain understanding from the viewer, but to allow them into the body to witness, and just to see. This is the zenith of the female home, where all its visceral vulnerability comes to a head. Only one person at a time, one who has chosen to receive and interpret the inescapable imagery and words, can fit inside the intimate space, the vessel where the secret has been stored. It creates a specific circumstance in which presence—that of the artist in the imagery, and that of the viewer by their choice—is fundamental and significant.

As the viewer, and as a woman, I was both a participant and a tourist. There are moments and areas in we are woven that are openly accessible, and those that are exclusive, concealed and quieted. On an understated shelf below an old record player is a juxtaposition that depicts this tension. A photograph of a somewhat ambiguous female body part, casually exposed, rests atop an intriguing book nervously bound by thin string —forbidding entrance and maintaining secrecy, and yet not creating a fortified lock. It is these subtleties that are easily overlooked but that are in many ways paramount to the work. The more bold, literal moves distract from these subtleties; it requires close inspection and delicate attention to detail to begin to recognize the slow, subconscious hum of the piece as a whole. This is how I heard the only ticking clock. Even the more blatant displays that send a pretty clear message must be found; they don’t willingly approach the viewer. A portrait of Mary hangs innocently beside a still of Snow White eating the poison apple in the bedroom, approximately replicated from memory. The divine feminine versus original sin of women is not something a little girl takes into consideration with her bedroom décor. Adorned with Teddy Ruxpin, tap shoes, rainbows, and little secrets, the room is reminiscent of a generation in which the objects of affection served as distractions or moralizing toys. Stuck between X and Y, this generation was accused of having no culture. It is the area of the installation that is not romanticized; that is an honest depiction of collective childhood memory, which resonates with viewers from this somewhat marginalized generation. The inconspicuous contents of the drawers in the dresser discuss the transition between girl and woman, and the transformation that those objects of affection consequently undergo– the exchange of white gloves for black.

Having seen the women bustling about in the space constructing the show as if they were moving into a new home, meticulously fussing over details, delightfully chatting, softly crying, painting, and piecing, it was strange, later, to see it so hollow, devoid of the very creatures that gave it life. But this was part of the lifespan: conception, construction, passage of time, and reflection on what was built. Such personal spaces cannot be replicated by any other means other than the artists themselves. This is why it is an installation. No curator could treat all these objects with the same sensitive adoration as the women. In the stillness of viewing the installation alone I got a sense of the transience of this women’s lair. It is all in flux, aging. The flowers had wilted, the whiskey drained from the bottles, all the dust from the creation swept only to settle somewhere else… it was chasing something intangible and elusive. It was like the women had just left, or not yet arrived, like the moment between being a girl and a woman. It is a treasure hunt for the core of the piece, with little messages typed and tucked away, and little precious objects hidden in drawers all move the viewer through time and experience, and speak of the innate sensitivity and common bond of women. The objects are disguised among more decorative elements, ones that feel more arbitrary and that set the overall aesthetic for the environment. Some of the quiet, poignant little spots perhaps may have resulted from an inadvertent combination of intention and decoration.

Installation is a lot of work, and is often as much about the process as it is about the completed set. Through the process of fabricating their collective piece, all of these women revisited their experiences, pain, and splendor that we, as the viewers, see in the finished work. The home they built emanates the story of their transit through the space — woven into it as a part of a continuing dialogue.

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