Saturday, April 3

Home and Hunger

First Friday found us down at the Painted Bride for Colleen's McCubbin Stepanic's solo opening "Home". Colleen was showing her architectural series, each exploring some idea of "Home". This one was constructed of business cards with a layer of viny drawing over the facade. It reminds me of trying to find the right contractor to fix a crumbling house- almost impossible. It also reminds me a lot of my last piece of the Norris Street wall- crumbling paint and brick with vines crawling all over it. Great texture in this piece, with some of the cards bent up. This one was made up of old paintings, some cut/fringed to create a look of grass. This one reminded me of that "American Dream" of a house and a yard and a white picket fence. This one has a tent and a tree superimposed. I love the raw edges and painted layering. The largest piece was more topographical than the others and reminded me of one of the artificial mountains (AKA metal junk heaps) that exist along the American Street business corridor near Colleen's studio. Again, I'm in love with her layering of paint over construction- it creates mystery and makes me search the piece more and have more moments of discovery. In the Painted Bride's main gallery was an installation/performance created by J.J. McCracken entitled "Hunger". The downstairs gallery walls were coated in clay, slowly cracking and crumbling, and the floor was laid in sod, which was slowly crushed and dying as we walked over it. Thunderous sounds emanated from beneath our feet, reverberating, muffled through the sod. A feast table was set with unfired slip-cast fruits and vegetables, a stack of plates in the same material were set at the end of the table. A cast of performers were soaked head to toe in clay slip, making them anonymous and sad. Throughout the evening, the performers moved dejectedly through the space, picking up the clay fruits and vegetables, breaking them into pieces, eating clay shards, crumbling clay and sifting it into rows of anthills, holding plates with arms shaking, sitting, staring off into space, oblivious of the audience, moving as if we weren't there.
The colors and the smells and sounds were poignant and painful. It reminds me of the book "City of Ember" by Jeanne DuPrau . (I haven't seen the movie, so this matches my imagination's image of the book). The upstairs loft in contrast was screened like a greenhouse. Wooden, tablelike planters were set up, each with growing plants and a plate of freshly cut strawberries, carrots, and peppers. On the wall several plexi-glass containers were filled with decomposing compost. Signs on the wall explained the upstairs and downstairs connection. The clay used downstairs will be recycled into bricks for an oven and bowls to be used at Stenton Family Manor, a family homeless shelter in East Mt. Airy.
What an amazing pairing of exhibitions- Colleen's nostalgic "Home" filled with the challenges of making a living and achieving dreams, and McCracken's "Hunger" sharing with us the tragedies of not having the resources we need for sustenance.

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