Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
The Enigma of Gestation
Love Hours at Alice Gallery explores time and parenthood
Contemporary representations of parenthood are rampant in popular culture. Ranging from idyllic to distressing, such portrayals oftentimes generalize a complicated experience. Love Hours, an exhibition currently at the Alice Gallery in Salt Lake City tackles this immensely personal and time-honored experience. As a scholar of feminist art, the show’s curator Laura Hurtado works to expand this rhetoric, not by deconstructing popular imagery of parenthood, but by expanding its various connotations.
More than a general treatment of the subject through the eyes of various artists, Hurtado’s vision contains multiple meta-narratives and nuances. Perhaps the strongest of these narratives is the reference to time. Each of the works in the show contains what Hurtado calls a “time signature,” expressing a desire to record or index each moment of the parenting experience. In fact, the concept of time is implicit in the show’s title-Love Hours — the innumerable moments of love, labor and care that encompass the experience.
Love Hours tackles the various contradictions of parenthood — utopic vs. dystopic, messy vs. blissful — which both foster and complicate the preconceived ‘tasks’ of parenthood. The show’s visual material characterizes a touching, if not obsessive, attempt to catalogue a history of parenthood’s most ephemeral moments. The artists render their subjects in touching and complicated ways — paying homage to a visual record that is undoubtedly personal.
The work of Leah Moses explores the indexical and often abstract experience of motherhood. In a striking series, Moses creates a record of fetal movements on fragile paper, collapsing various moments in time and documenting the evolution of life.|1| Her other piece, 9 Days Nursing, exists as a visual record of breastfeeding. Moses plays upon the delicacy of her materials, creating a ‘quilt’ made out of newspaper.|2| The quilt contains patches of text and image detailing the etiquette of breastfeeding. As such, the work plays upon what is often considered “visual evidence” of good parenting. By mapping an experience of great intimacy and warmth, Moses reveals an often protective and hidden experience.
As an art historian, Laura Hurtado investigates representations of motherhood in visual culture. Much of this history stems from the Feminist movement of the 1960’s. Mary Kelly stands out as one of the movement’s most dynamic artists. Hurtado regards Kelly’s rejection of familiar and generic portrayals of motherhood. Kelly’s work is rooted in the philosophical realm-often using abstraction as a vehicle for navigating the complicated role of parenthood. Thus, as Hurtado proudly acknowledges, Love Hours is an homage to Kelly’s feminist innovation.
Kelly Brooks’ ‘movement maps’ combine Kelly’s penchant for abstraction with the show’s larger dialogue of time and indexing. Brooks’ conceptual works is multifaceted. She begins by using video to record her family engaged in everyday tasks.|3| Her ‘maps’ then abstractly render the movement of bodies. The end result of this process is a series of abstract drawings, color-coded with a legend in the corner relating the color of the abstract mark to its human counterpart.|4| Visually, the drawings appear similar to the high modernist tradition of decidedly masculine artists such as Jackson Pollock. In these works, Brooks conflates the subjective abstract scribble with sentimental meaning. For Brooks, home is the canvas and family the abstract mark.
The show relishes in the subtle and delicate aspects of parenthood. Heightening this effect is the auditory poetry of Sylvia Plath ruminating from a vintage record player. A line from one of Plath’s poems adorns the wall above the record player.|5| As with the exhibition’s other works, Plath’s poetry is a nuanced rendering of the experience of parenthood and a move away from the ideal.
Although the show relishes in such nuances, there is room for some traditional renderings of the cycle of life. A beautiful portrait of a woman holding her child created by Utah painter Trevor Southey hangs near the exhibition’s opening.|6| Across from it hangs a small drawing by Nathan Florence entitled, Marian at 8 Months.|7| The drawing is at once an academic study of human anatomy and also a loving time signature of the critical moments preceding birth. In a contrast to the subtle or sentimental, Brad and Susan Barber’s video evokes the sense of urgency involved in procreation. The artistic duo explores this stressful moments of preparation from both the female and male perspective.|8|
Love Hours succeeds in deconstructing the familiar and popular representations of parenthood. While indisputably celebratory of the creation of human life, the show importantly disengages any supposed emotional outcome. Instead, artists ask us to ponder the many facets of an enormously subjective experience. The exhibition reminds us that the creation of life and the role of parenthood is by no means static or objective. In fact, the process of creation is one artists can intimately relate to. The exhibition, with its many intellectual, cultural and above all personal ramifications forces one to consider what feminist scholar Julia Kristeva calls, “the enigma of gestation.”
NOW ID's The Wedding . . . from page 1
Revisiting her identity post Ririe-Woodbury, Boye-Christensen says that she was “sick as hell of the proscenium space,” and with this new work was excited to explore the common human ritual in the magical, if loaded, venue that is the Masonic Temple auditorium. As she fleshed out her plans, she repeatedly affirmed a commitment to abstraction, eschewing the narrative, but retaining “an emotional landscape” that comes from acknowledging “the human presence.” That said, she concedes an autobiographical element that is perhaps unprecedented in her work. Before the first show, she and Webster will be renewing their vows in the Egyptian room for friends and family traveling to Utah for the performance.
While The Wedding will primarily be a dance performance, NOW is already planning other projects that will highlight other art forms. January will see a collaboration with the theater artists of Flying Bobcat based on Goethe’s Faust and featuring puppets. Webster hopes to use the company store on their website as a way of promoting local designers and artists “in the spirit of CityHome Collective” and cities “such as Austin, Texas, or Portland, Oregon” that connect the “hyper-local” with the international. “You have to keep up your connections... or risk losing your international profile,” Boye-Christensen interjects. “That’s been [her] frustration with Ririe for the last five years,” Webster explains, and it’s a problem Boye-Christensen hopes to face while making a home here in Salt Lake.
“Eventually,” elaborates Boye-Christensen, “we want to move away from the self-limiting non-profit model,” though they are planning on getting retroactive non-profit status for the over $35,000 in donations they raised this spring on Kickstarter. The money is well needed, both because of the international range of the talent NOW is bringing in, as well as for more mundane matters — in order to stage the performance in the middle of the summer, the organization had to spend $5000 to air-condition the Masonic Temple’s auditorium.
Boye-Christensen is clearly proud of the cast that she’s hired for the upcoming production. “All of these dancers are artists that have had a profound impact on me,” she mused during our interview. “Yumelia [Garcia, Joffery Ballet] is an astounding technician... this Venezuelan spitfire... I met in Minneapolis.” Boye-Christensen smiles and laughs at the thought of Garcia, who is barely five feet, partnering with Sleep No More alum Ted Johnson, a mature and unpretentious performer who clocks in at six foot four inches. Then there’s Ballet West’s Katherine Lawrence who recently wowed audiences in Avichai Scher’s White Noise and finally, Jo Blake. Formerly of Ririe-Woodbury, Blake is the dancer with whom she’s worked with the longest, for more than a decade. He’s steeped in her style from years of legendarily grueling classes at the Rose Wagner. He’s also one of the few professional dancers in Salt Lake City who is almost universally lauded and respected by his colleagues.
When The Wedding comes together later this month at the Masonic Temple, it will be fascinating to see how these disparate artists get paired and repaired in the final analysis. The work itself is still being created and details on it are scant. Boye-Christensen says she hasn’t really thought about the work in terms of the obvious issues implied in making a piece about marriage in Utah — such as queer unions or the legacy of polygamy — making it unclear how universal or how local the piece will be. What Boye-Christensen has accomplished so far is an achievement in and of itself. Within months of leaving her comfortable position at Ririe-Woodbury, she’s raised an impressive sum of money — and already spent a good portion of it. She has gathered a cast of dancers she admires and created a real challenge for herself. The first fruits of this work will be on display later this month. We can only hope that more local choreographers will follow her lead in taking themselves seriously enough to take such big risks and ask the public for so much support.