Sunday, February 4, 2007


Yesterday was the closing day of “Evidence”, a group exhibition at CCA’s PLAySPACE Gallery of work by Emily Green, Robin Johnston, Celia Manley, Carrie Minikel, Elizabeth Mooney, and Carly Troncale, six female second-year MFA students at CCA. These women work in a variety of mediums, producing art that (to quote the press release), “demonstrates evidence of something not physically present in the work itself, for instance a higher power, a machine, human emotion, nature's involvement, or words spoken and dissolved”. There is no feminist rhetoric or theory postulated in the language around this show, yet I couldn’t help looking at the exhibition with an eye coated by the issues that “My place…” has conjured– these artists are all female, after all. Looking at the evidentiary traces of work, movement, and thought among these pieces made me wonder whether there is something inextricably female about the sort of attention to detail that these works exemplify.

This work is largely about the leftover details of activities as mundane as cleaning the gallery floor; one work is a simple arrangement of items found in the gallery, ranging from staples to a scrap of paper that reads “back in 5 minutes” to a neatly arranged pile of swept-up dirt. These artists share in common a meticulousness, an almost obsessive quality that I find poignantly relatable– is this a girl thing? I don’t have the answer, and I’m not ready to make claims about what’s “inherently female”, but I do notice that women seem to be particularly prone to save the traces and byproducts of activities and memories– snapshots, old ID badges, Playbills, dried flowers from a special occasion. We seem to want to hold onto memories in a way that is very tactile; it is not enough to have experienced something; we want to collect little reminders of those experiences. And this is where women artists come in.

From time to time, something fairly mundane and commonplace re-hits me; one of those moments that recurs often for me is the realization that artists produce so much stuff. Making stuff is the business of art– of course, much art challenges and defies this notion, but at the base level, it’s true. The art world, if there is such a thing, revolves around stuff. That is exactly what this show seems to celebrate– the ability of artists to save and “make use” of everything. The kind of special affinity toward objects that many women artists show is, perhaps, what sets them apart from male artists. Again, I shy away from blanket statements, but these are the kind of theories that started brewing when I looked at the work in “Evidence”. In this show, the attention paid to the evidence of activities and experiences unseen and, ultimately, impossible to relay gives us a very tangible sense of who these artists are and the how they think. Process is very much unfurled and left out for us to see, and in this sense, I think feminism creeps into this show even if it wasn’t meant to; there is a kindness and an openness in these artists’ willingness not to hide anything that, I’d hope, is a female quality, if not a human quality. - Jessica Brier

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