Jeffrey Cyphers Wright Chelsea Now June, 2008
Lisa Gulya UTNE Reader June, 2008
Jim Stark Gastronomica The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 8 No. 2 pp. 69-71, May, 2008
Fiona Case Chemistry World December 2007
Marjorie Heins and Tricia Beckles A Public Policy Report, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, December 2005
Nick Sousanis The Detroiter : Metro Times, detroit's weekly alternative September 21, 2005
Roger Green The Ann Arbor News September 17, 2005
Linda Matchan The Boston Globe November 4, 2004
Eve Kahn The New York Times October 28, 2004
Robin Marantz Henig The New York Times May 8, 2004
Christopher Millis The Boston Phoenix Mar 5 -11, 2004
Danielle Cannon NYArts Nov. 2003
Zoe Wolff Time Out New York Nov 27 - Dec 4, 2003 Issue No. 426
Amy Lieberg NYLON eNewsletter Oct 3, 2003
Chioma Nnadi TRACE September 2003, Issue no. 45
NYARTS Summer 2003
Meghan Dailey ARTFORUM October, 2002
Grace Glueck The New York Times July 26, 2002
William Zimmer The New York Times June 16, 2002
Carol Sims Antiques And The Arts Weekly June 11, 2002
Clare Henry Financial Times Weekend June 8, 2002
Laurel Tuohy The News-Times June 7, 2002
Risa Needleman, Michele Boos, and Carole Paul The Art Tribune Vol. 2 Issue 3 May/June 2002
Sarah Douglas The Art Newspaper No. 125 May, 2002
Brita Brundage Fairfield County Weekly May 30, 2002
National Examiner May 28, 2002
Kristan Zimmer The Ridgefield Press May 16, 2002
Annika Persson Dagens Nyheter, Sweden April 22, 2002
Elizabeth Heathcote The Independent, Great Britain April 14, 2002
Kim Rathcke Jensen The Politiken, Denmark April 14, 2002
Chuck Shepherd News of the Wierd April 14, 2002
Jinling Evening Post, China March 31, 2002
Chinese press March 31, 2002
Kristen Philipkoski WIREDNEWS.com March 29, 2002
Esther Haynes JANE Magazine March, 2002
Chelsea Arts and Lifestyles
The Weekly Newspaper of Chelsea
Sex, Rugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll mark Summer’s arrival
The hot stuff comes out in group shows and solos
Volume 2, Number 37, June 20 - 26, 2008 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
It's summer and the time is right for getting loose and letting your hair down. Traditionally, galleries have used the slot to promote fresh artists and mount theme-oriented group shows.
At Morgan Lehman, the theme is sex and the sentiments range from saucy to slick and sick. Satire and humor offer ways to penetrate our complex behavioral codes regarding eroticism. And because the subject is our favorite, there are multiple layers of meaning to unpack.
The most overtly political is Suzanne Wright's "Conoco Phillips" which depicts a provocative female figure lying in bed. Beneath blue breasts her midriff turns to rippling water. An oilrig plunges its drills and support struts into her liquid ribcage. A dual sensation of violation and succor trip us up. Are we raping Mother Nature or is she nursing us? Logic tells us we can't have it both ways.
Randy Polumbo's "Buttercups" try to have it both ways too. The fecund satellite flowers are studded with dildos and hot dogs. The assortment of "rubber adult novelty items" protrude like pistils or carpels from solar panels fitted with LEDs.
The resultant blooms operate on contradictory trajectories: hard vs. soft; organic vs. technical; cerebral vs. sexual and amusement vs. obsession. They’re also comical but retain a sheen of luxurious mien.
Not so funny, but every bit as luxurious is the controversial print of a beauty pageant contestant from Austin, Texas. Framed in an over the shoulder come-hither look, you would think the simpering hottie with her tumbling blond tresses was at least 18. So when you find out she’s only 8—you experience a heaping serving of guilt, revulsion and incredulity.
Playboy magazine is calling in Alix Smith’s large portrait of a nude woman on a bed looking at spreads of women. The seemingly casual pose (with feet raised behind her as she lies on her stomach poring over the pages) mimics the poses of the females in the magazine. Dozens of Playboys are scattered around her. The ironic treatment pokes fun at male fantasies by multiplying the objects of desire to a ridiculous degree. Smith recently completed a series about religious rituals called "Metaphoric Acts."
Metaphor likewise informs "Trouser Snake" drawn by Michael Caine. A woolly mammoth type beast sports a really long trunk. A cowboy rides the behemoth as a soldier holds up the trunk’s end evoking associations between the current president and the average grunt in Iraq. It suggests that war is a macho thing and men can be led around by the penis—gee, you think so?
Animals humping are pursued by hunters or observed by children in gouache and graphite vignettes by Sabrina Marquez. A childlike simplicity and stylization enlighten these works, which are by turns amusing or foreboding.
Kris Knight's oil painting of two fairly young guys kissing is a beauty. At once titillating and innocent the work is underpinned by sublime details like a coonskin cap, tree stumps and a jet-black sky.
Referring to art's beginnings as trophies—wild animal heads and horns on masks—Chrissy Conant takes the idea to its ultimate conclusion. She has made a silicone rubber cast of her body and turned it into "Chrissy Skin Rug." Anatomically correct, the smooth surface was embossed with nipples and fraught with elbow wrinkles. No Barbie doll, Conant's little bungalow (minus the thatch) resembled a peach pit. Not that I looked that closely, ahem....
Actually, it was a little disconcerting to examine the sculpture. The head, with its spilling hair and staring glass eyes, seemed very much alive and gave one the uncomfortable sense of being a voyeur who was being observed. Conant fiercely makes the point (and points the finger at men) that women are dehumanized when treated as one-dimensional sex objects.
Gods of the stage, Jimi, Mick, Patti et al are the subjects of Servane Mary's latest portraits at Martos Gallery. Her last series shown in Paris honored women and their resilience and dignity in the face of war and poverty. This time her watercolors help distill the energy of rock stars.
Critic Max Henry has written that Servane's work achieves a "rupture" away from mass produced portraits of idols and restores a personal awareness. They represent her unique response to these legends (reportedly she hangs with Bryan Ferry).
All of the works are untitled so one can't be sure about who's who. Zappa, Dylan, Springsteen, Vicious... is that Trent Reznor? The quality of figuration is distorted and animated by the washy pigment. The bodies bend and blur as if they were submersed in streaming time. Occasionally shades of pink add a magic sprinkle of nightclub glamour—as if we're still there, preserved in the black and white renderings. Ah, the glory.
Servane included a terrific red wax sculpture of a vertical, twisting horn, poised to gore. Emblematic of aggression and protection, it added a complementary touch of pure animal sexuality.
<link to the article>
Chrissy Caviar: That Takes Ovaries
June, 2008 by Lisa Gulya
Artists continue to make shocking and sacrilegious art, even after Piss Christ and "dung Mary." Even steering clear of religious subjects, flesh-based projects can still create a clamor. In April, Yale student Aliza Shvarts stirred up a furor by claiming her senior art installation would incorporate blood smears and videos of several of her own self-induced miscarriages. It was a fabrication, but it attracted plenty of ire anyway.
Another woman artist, Chrissy Conant, actually did use her body to make outrageous art. She injected herself with the same fertility drugs in vitro fertilization patients use, an endocrinologist and embryologist harvested twelve of her eggs, and Conant created Chrissy Caviar (a trademarked product). Twelve eggs in flasks were set in jars "similar to those used for commercial caviar," reports Gastronomica in its spring 2008 issue, and the Chrissy Caviar was placed in a refrigerated deli display case
Utne wrote about Chrissy Caviar when it debuted in 2002, and interest has not abated in the intervening years. "One chef wanted to do a tasting of the eggs as part of a media event in his high-end restaurant in New York," reports Gastronomica, "but Conant has resisted his offer, even though … she was, on a certain level, pleased that the chef made the connection [with sturgeon caviar] so literally. She finds it somewhat shocking that people would actually consider ingesting a part of her."
Conant refused the Chrissy Caviar tasting, but she would let the buyer of the installation do whatever he or she wanted with the eggs, according to Gastronomica, for $250,000. Nor does Conant seem to shy away from the possibility that a buyer might want to create little Chrissys. The Chrissy Caviar site includes medical histories for Conant and her immediate family.
Conant’s project isn’t likely to attract cross-dragging protestors, whereas Shvarts’ might have. Chrissy Caviar is disturbing, but it’s a good example of art that goes beyond provoking simple outrage and disgust to encouraging viewers to think about bigger issues surrounding the ethical limits of art and the use of reproductive technologies.
<link to the article>
Gastronomica The Journal of Food and Culture
Consumerism: Chrissy Caviar
Vol. 8 No. 2 pp. 69-71, May 2008, University of California Press by Jim Stark
Even people who know nothing about food recognize caviar as a rare and expensive treat. Its reputation as a delicacy is accentuated by the endangered status of the Caspian sturgeons that produce it and the elaborate trappings surrounding its service in fine restaurants. Although many web sites provide inks to purveyors of Iranian and Russian caviar, www.chrissycaviar.com, created by New York artist Chrissy Conant, offers a unique product, Chrissy Caviar®, which it describes as "the world's most expensive luxury consumable item."
All of Chrissy Conant's work revolves around one subject: her own fears, moods, and desires. Her art is very personal, yet it challenges the viewer to reflect on his or her own inner life by presenting such objects as teddy bears whose fur has been replaced with long, sharp pins; or a homeland security mood indicator, on which the artist's moods escalate in color and intensity form LOW to GUARDED to SEVERE.
Conant was raised in New Jersey and educated at Boston University and the School of Visual Arts. In 2002, in the aftermath of a broken engagement, she became preoccupied with having a child before she grew too old to conceive and spent a lot of time thinking about how best to present herself to prospective mates. When a friend took her to dinner at an expensive restaurant and told her she could order anything she liked Conant ordered a large portion of caviar. It was brought with great pomp by a waiter who carefully spooned the roe onto blini, and then ceremoniously presented it with all the usual accompaniments - toast points, hard-boiled eggs, and chopped onions.
It was only later, when Conant was thinking about what kind of clothes or hairstyle would "brand" her - position her for the most desirable mate - that she realized what she really wanted to have was the allure of caviar. What would happen, she wondered, if she put a part of herself - perhaps her most precious part - in a jar and marked it like caviar?
Thus the Chrissy Caviar® project was born.
After extensive research into how fish eggs are harvested and cured to make caviar, and into how human eggs are harvested and treated as part of in vitro fertilization (IVF), Conant spent six weeks injecting herself with the same fertility drugs prescribed to IVF patients. The injections caused her to produce multiple eggs instead of only one egg per month. Conant followed this regimen with a final hormone injection that made all her eggs mature at the same time. Then she entered an operating room where, in a forty-five minute procedure, an endocrinologist and embryologist harvested her eggs. Conant documented all of this with a video camera.
Although the eggs are enormous in comparison to any other human cells, each is only the size of a pencil point. Conant carefully placed them in thirteen tiny flasks (including an "artist's proof") filled with human tubal fluid - the same synthetic saline solution used to preserve and transport human eggs for IVF. Each flask was set in a jar that she had manufactured for the project, similar to those used for commercial caviar. These jars were in turn filled with a clear silicone gel.
The presentation of the eggs was as important to Conant as the process of obtaining them. She designed a label that instantly recalls that of a classic caviar, but instead of a fish it features a photograph of the artist reclining; and instead of being labeled "Beluga" or "Sevruga" it is prominently described as "Caucasian." The label also informs us that the jar contains "one egg" and "human tubal fluid" with a weight of .00000006 ounces, and that it must be refrigerated at a temperature of no more than 38 degrees F.
Determined to establish Chrissy Caviar® as a brand to be marketed like any other high-grade caviar, Conant filled out the paperwork necessary to secure a trademark and filed for registration in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although the initial reaction of the government examiner charged with registering the trademark was stunned disbelief, he eventually came around. Conant now holds a trademark registered for use in connection with two distinct categories: food products and DNA.
An installation of the Chrissy Caviar® project debuted at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in May 2002. It included a continuously running ten-minute DVD that documents the artist's efforts to harvest her eggs, a large, glossy "glamour" photo of her holding a jar of her caviar between her legs, a giant lithograph of the label for Chrissy Caviar®, and a limited-edition ballpoint pen topped by a clear plastic liquid-filled cylinder that you can tilt to get a tiny egg to float between images of an ovary and a caviar jar. The centerpiece of the installation was a glass-fronted, deli-style refrigerator case featuring two rows of the twelve labeled jars of Chrissy Caviar®.
By presenting human eggs as caviar, Conant deliberately challenges the viewer to consider the origin of the food we enjoy as caviar, as well as the prospect of treating human eggs as food. How much of the glamour of caviar remains if what is in the jar is an artist's rare eggs instead of the rare eggs of the sturgeon? A serious foodie who wants her "caviar" to represent the rituals we have developed around food and to highlight the importance of food in society, Conant is at the same time aware that her "caviar" takes the idea of exotic consumables to the very edge of cannibalism.
One chef wanted to do a tasting of the eggs as part of a media event in his high-end restaurant in New York, but Conant has resisted his offer, even though the parallel with sturgeon caviar is essential to the project and she was, on a certain level, pleased that the chef made the connection so literally. She finds it somewhat shocking that people would actually consider ingesting a part of her.
The installation is currently part of a show called "Molecules That Matter" that is touring museums around the United States, but the deli case and the eggs are for sale to any collector willing to pay $250,000. Conant has made it clear that whatever happens to her eggs then - whether they remain in an installation, are cloned, or ultimately consumed on toast points - will be up to the buyer.
Additional information can be found at www.chrissycaviar.com, including video excerpts from "Making Chrissy Caviar®", news of the traveling installation, and such miscellaneous data as the medical histories of Chrissy Conant and members of her family.
Chemistry and Art: Molecules That Matter
December, 2007 by Fiona Case
What began as one chemistry professor’s project to find the 10 most important molecules of the 20th century, has brought science and art together in a unique exhibition. Co-curator John Weber, director of the Tang Museum, agrees: ‘As we moved the structures around looking for ways to arrange the exhibit, I was struck by how visual organic chemistry is.’ The exhibition explores ideas of beauty, meaning, and cultural significance in chemistry through the work of 15 contemporary artists. Malissa Gwyn, assistant professor of art at the University of California, Santa Cruz, US, has been exploring the interface of science and art for several years. ‘My early work was inspired by the utility and beauty of molecular models,’ she says. ‘Scientists have developed imaging systems to reveal the deeper structures. The perception of beauty is looking for something that we can’t see yet – revealing the hidden meaning.’ Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1981) was one of the judges involved in choosing the 10 molecules. ‘Molecules can be beautifully simple and simply beautiful,’ he says. ‘But, chemists and artists know that there is infinitely more to beauty than simplicity.’ He cites the complexity of biochemical molecules such as haemoglobin as an example. ‘Beauty resides not just in simple things, but at the tense edge where simplicity and complexity, where symmetry and asymmetry, where chaos and order contend with each other.’ Robert Hargrove, professor of chemistry and environmental science at Mercer University in Atlanta, US, and one of the exhibition’s science advisory committee members, was struck by similarities between the artistic and scientific endeavour. ‘The public perception is that we just come into the laboratory and make a new material,’ he says. ‘The reality is that science is mostly about failure – we follow many dead-ends. The artists understand this too. It takes time to get it right.’
Organic chemistry changed our world in the 20th century. It gave us miraculous cures for disease and revolutionary new materials that defined modern life. As part of a chemistry outreach program for liberal arts students at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York in the US, chemistry professor Ray Giguere set out to identify the 10 molecules that made the greatest impact – one for each decade. The project grew to involve an advisory committee of eminent chemists from throughout the country, and a range of collaborators from social sciences and the arts. The Philadelphia-based Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) joined the initiative, bringing funding, and insights into the historical context of the chemical developments. The work has culminated in an exhibition currently at the Tang Teaching Museum in Saratoga Springs, exploring the social, scientific, and artistic aspects of 10 Molecules that Matter. The exhibition immerses you in organic chemistry. ‘Molecules are hanging off the ceilings and the walls,’ says Giguere. As a synthetic organic chemist his work is driven by molecular structure. ‘I’d like people to appreciate not only the utility, but also the beauty of these molecules.’
Salicylic acid from willow bark was used for centuries as a pain reliever, but the pure acid irritated users’ stomachs. At the turn of the 20th century Felix Hoffmann, working for Bayer AG, Germany, developed a commercially viable synthesis for acetylsalicylic acid, solving this problem, and Bayer launched its ‘wonder drug’, aspirin. The meteoric rise of medicinal chemistry revolutionalised the treatment of illness and millions of people are alive today as a result. But some are now dependent on the drugs. ‘My work explores the love/ hate relationship between people and the prescription drugs on which they depend,’ explains Jean Shin. ‘Pill containers were donated to me by individuals who must take these drugs every day – every bottle has a story.’ The bottles are connected together to suggest the bars in a bar chart of drug use in the US. They are mounted on mirrors on the floor and ceiling of the Tang museum. ‘If you look up or down you see a line of pill bottles stretching to infinity,’ says Shin. ‘The installation hints to a fragile life-line of dependency and over consumption of drugs in our culture.’
The freedom to travel
The decision about which 10 molecules to include was not an easy one to reach. It was a lively discussion involving the students, a scientific advisory board, and two Nobel laureates. ‘I put in a particular vote for isooctane,’ says advisory board member Mary Ellen Bowden, senior historian at the CHF. She wanted to recognise the role that motor vehicles and fuels derived from crude oil played in the 20th century – reconfiguring the design of cities, reshaping social relationships and impacting global warming and global politics. The identification of isooctane as the first anti-knocking agent by scientists at Ethyl Corporation in the US was the key development leading to these changes.
In 1933 chemists at ICI, UK, created polyethene (initially by accident). The company launched the new material in 1939, and the first production plant began operation on the day that Germany invaded Poland. It immediately found wartime application as insulation for radar cables, and became a military secret as a result. Nylon 6,6 also made an impact during World War II, replacing silk, which was controlled by the Japanese, in parachutes, and creating strong, lightweight, tow-ropes and tents. After the war polyethene became iconic as Tupperware, and plastics became associated with everything that was modern. The range of applications is illustrated at the Tang by a list of nylon objects covering one wall of the exhibition space – from wigs to wall paper, and from violin strings to hair-curlers. But the cultural problem with overabundance of plastics is not ignored. ‘Plastic bags are a visible component of pollution in our everyday life,’ says Kara Daving, an artist based in Buffalo, New York. Daving is traveling to every state in the US capturing images of the ubiquitous trash. She has photographed polyethene bags snagged in cacti in the desert and caught in trees in northern New York, and four of her prints are included in this exhibition. ‘This event has highlighted a whole other side of plastics for me – the physical and chemical aspects rather than their aesthetics,’ she says.
‘Six years ago I bought a DNA model and started working on a collage,’ says Michael Oatman: an artist who works in the architecture department at Rensselaer Penicillin Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. ‘I collected cutouts from science books, magazines, even menus and arranged them to track the path of the helices.’ The result is a comment on the central role of DNA, but it is also a ‘personal molecule’ for Oatman – illustrating the journey of his own life. Bryan Crockett’s work portrays actual mice engineered for the study of human disease. He suggests that through the manipulation of their DNA, these animals are predestined to the ‘seven deadly sins’ – in this case anger, gluttony and sloth. His beautiful marble sculptures raise questions about morality in genetic engineering and the tension between science and religion.
In Malissa Gwyn’s 1992 painting of progesterone, a female hormone associated with sex and pregnancy, the atoms are represented by fruits associated with desire – cherries, pears, apples. ‘Fruit suggests beauty, transience, and decay,’ she says. ‘I wanted the paintings to reveal correspondences between the molecule – the subject of my painting – and its relation to erotic appetite, and fragile human corporeality.’ The progestin molecule, a synthetic progestogen, was a key aspect of a social revolution in the 1960s and 1970s – the resurgence of feminism and women’s rights. Progestin is the active component of contraceptive pills that allow women to be sexually active without fear of pregnancy, and giving them the freedom to choose what they do with their own DNA. Chrissy Conant’s work is about that choice. Conant underwent hormone therapy to increase the number of eggs produced during ovulation. Her eggs were harvested and packaged in refrigerated glass tubes and jars as Chrissy Caviar® – the ultimate, consumable product. The procedure is the same as is used by women who donate their eggs to infertile couples (usually, in the US, for a fee). ‘We all brand ourselves,’ comments Conant. ‘In my case my brand is actually trademarked.’
Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride) was also selected based on its social impact. ‘The 1980s was the hardest decade to assign,’ says Giguere. ‘Many of our advisors proposed taxol, as there’s a fascinating history to its chemical synthesis.’ The decisive argument for fluoxetine hydrochloride came from the Skidmore students who had never heard of taxol. Prozac was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat depression, panic disorder, bulimia and obsessive compulsive disorders. Introduced in 1986 by Eli Lilly, it is the most widely prescribed antidepressant in history and is approved and marketed in more than 90 countries.
Molecules That Matter will be at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, US, until April 2008. It will open at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, in August 2008, and will then travel to the College of Wooster, Ohio; Baylor University in Waco, Texas; and Grinnell College, Iowa in 2009.
A Public Policy Report
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
Democracy Program, Free Expression Policy Project
Will Fair Use Survive? Free Expression in the Age of Copyright Control
December, 2005 Chapter 5, p.48 by Marjorie Heins and Tricia Beckles
In March 2003, the artist Chrissy Conant created a three-part sculptural project using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security® terms "severe", "high", "elevated", "guarded", and "low" in colorful chokers, blankets, and wall hangings (footnote 246). Conant applied for the trademark "Chrissy Homeland Security® Blanket" and later, for additional trademarks for the wall hangings and chokers. About two years later, she received an email from one Shirley Ivins, who claimed to be the owner of the "Homeland Security Blanket" trademark. This was followed by a cease and desist letter from Ivins's attorney, demanding not only that Conant stop using the mark, but that she supply an inventory "of all items in your possession that bear the infringing trademarks," that she destroy all such items, and that she produce an accounting of her sales in order to determine the amount of money that she owed to Ivins. The letter threatened legal action if Conant did not comply "within the time frames set forth"(footnote 247).
Conant didn't respond initially, but after receiving another communication from Ivins, "that unless I pulled my blankets out of my retailer locations, she would contact them and tell them that I had infringed upon her trademark," she consulted an attorney who "had me write a response, telling her that I disagreed with her accusation, and if she threatened my relationships with my vendors, I intended to prosecute my claims against her." Ivins or her attorney evidently contacted Amazon.com, which told Conant that they had cancelled her listing "because I 'may' be in violation of their community rules prohibiting copyright infringement."
Conant did not go through with her threat to sue for financial reasons. She continues to sell her limited edition blankets and other politically loaded creations directly and through an art gallery and a few museum shops. She has heard nothing further from Ivins, but is annoyed that someone can close down a major venue for sales such as Amazon simply by making an accusation.
Detroit's Weekly Alternative
Sept 21, 2005 p. H2 by Nick Sousanis
In Fabric of Fear: Art after 9/11, hosted by Detroit’s Gallery 555, New York artist Chrissy Conant presents an installation featuring a plush wool blanket covering a bed. This blanket has been adorned with the terror alert spectrum in soothing pastels. Above the bed, five Plexiglas panels echo that spectrum. The nightstand is complete with duct tape, flashlight, bottled water and a terror-alert choker necklace. Conant’s installation is disarming. It creates a safe, intimate and comfortable bedroom setting, while questioning the illusory nature of security. The presentation is charming and inviting, yet insidious.
Before September 11, 2001, for those of us living in the United States, terrorism was seen as something that happened "over there." How then do we make sense of this post-9/11 landscape? What’s needed is assistance in navigating this uncertain terrain and new ways of looking at the world — two fundamental strengths of art.
Curated by Ann Arbor artist Brenda Oelbaum, Fabric of Fear features more than a dozen local and international artists. It is an aesthetically and conceptually powerful exhibition dealing head-on with the climate of fear.
In addition to its alliterative allure, the show’s title metaphorically speaks to commonalities across cultures — the threads now binding us together. The meaning is also literal, as much of the work on display is of fabric.
Margaret Parker offers up a tremendous amount of work, including an entire series in which she transforms ordinary T-shirts into distinctive sculptural objects through imaginative cutting and hanging. The works reference such things as the "Paradise of the 47 Virgins" (the supposed reward for martyrs) and U.S. prison camp abuses. The former is made of a splayed-out, tie-dye shirt, and the latter out of a Darth Maul tee. Parker’s other work consists of paintings of falling bodies, airplanes and the negative space of the twin towers.
The towers appear again, along with depictions of the U. S. "war on terror," in more representational fashion, as Afghan rug tapestries. These are perhaps the most disturbing works in the show, because they were not intended as political art, but as craft. Made by Afghan women, they’re meant as souvenirs for U.S. soldiers. Of particular beauty is a runner that, at first glance, seems decorated with star patterns and a rectangular border. On closer inspection, the stars are actually B-52 bombers and the borders are cluster bombs and food ration kits.
For her "Axis of Evil" series, curator Oelbaum created rugs from latch-hook kits. She also made painterly portraits of Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein, President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Also included is a tape of a performance piece in which she invites people on the street to enter her flag-covered tent and wipe their feet on the Osama rug. The enthusiasm, confusion and apprehension this generated is captured well by filmmaker David Holtek, whose works on paper also appear in the show.
In another video presentation, highly prolific and acclaimed New York artist Rainer Ganahl stands in front of an Afghan tapestry made to resemble TV news logos. In an age when everyone’s a suspect and not knowing the right thing to say can land you in prison, he tersely recites five phrases in 11 different languages, including, "I am not a terrorist."
Canadian painter Mendelson Joe turns up the intensity with overtly political paintings such as "Death Mask," an incredibly expressive, horribly contorted, Dr. Strangelove-version of Dick Cheney. Bright red irises encircling skulls in the pupils burn through the otherwise deathly gray portrait.
Much more deserves mention: Christy Kelly-Bentgen’s "1000 Nails"; Lynda Cole’s hauntingly beautiful photographs of the towers, Jeremy Barbour’s portrait of a terrorist on a stretched towel, a play on the derogatory term “towel head”; Amy Feigley’s woven political statements; and gallery director Monte’s altar to our addiction to violence.
Art can offer a fresh perspective in this time when the "global war against terror" has been declared indefinitely. Fabric of Fear is necessary and essential viewing.
©2005, Metro Times, Inc.
The Ann Arbor News
Post-9/11 artwork knits together the 'Fabric of Fear'
September 17, 2005 p. H2 by Roger Green
DETROIT - It's a challenge to find, but worth the work. The group exhibit "Fabric of Fear: Art After 9/11" fills three rooms at Gallery/Studio 555, a nonprofit in a former industrial building, without an identifying sign.
But locate the entry, then climb the stairs. Covering the gallery's walls and floors are artworks that pose provocative questions about how Washington is conducting the War on Terror, about U.S. foreign policy and about underlying values generally. Many of the works are rough and raw. But all convey authentic sentiments and ideals. Viewers will be moved by the exhibit's urgency.
In all, 13 artists, including six from Ann Arbor, have works on view. The Ann Arborites are Christy Kelly-Bentgen, Lynda Cole, Diane E. Dues, David Holtek, Monte, Brenda Oelbaum and Margaret Parker. Among the media represented are painting, sculpture, drawing. weaving, photography, installation and video art.
Oelbaum, who curated the group exhibit, is showing hand-hooked rugs from her "Axis of Evil" series. Each of the rugs is an outsize portrait of what the artist perceives as an evildoer. Saddam Hussein and Kim Jung Il are represented.
So are Dick Cheney and George Bush.
In her artist's statement, Oelbaum notes that "Stepping on something with one's shoes is considered among the highest forms of disrespect in the Muslim world." So it's no accident that her rugs are displayed on the gallery floor. By contrast, several rugs woven by Afghan refugees living in Pakistan - Oelbaum's inspiration - hang from walls.
The Afghan rugs testify to years of armed conflict by combining maps with images of helicopters and airplanes, arrayed in neat registers. The decorative border of a "War Rug" features F15 and F16 helicopters.
Parker is showing both mixed-media pieces - they combine watercolor and oil stick passages with collage elements - and sculptures created from shredded T-shirts. "World Trade Center," a mixed-media work, portrays the twin towers overspread with cut-out magazine images of consumer goods. According to Parker, these represent the result of our policies in the Mideast. They might also reference President Bush's post-9/11 counsel to shop.
The T-shirt sculptures are octopus-like constructions, with tendrils extending from open, circular necks. They're meant to show that people are torn up, not least by fundamentalist beliefs. Titles include "The Rapture" and "Paradise of 47 Virgins."
Chrissy Conant, a New York artist, is showing the slickest work on view. It's a professionally manufactured "Homeland Security Blanket," imprinted with color-coded and lettered bands representing alerts. They range from "Low" through "Severe." A flier for the exhibit includes a quote from Russian installation artist Ilya Kabakov: "Fear is the reason for making art. It is a means to freedom."
Artists participating in the exhibit clearly have fears about the direction the nation is heading.
Yet they also have the freedom to express dissent, and are patriots for exercising it.
Gallery/Studio 555 is at 4884 Grand River Ave. (at West Warren Avenue). Hours are 6-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by appointment. For more information, call (313) 894-4202.
The Boston Globe
Life at Home
November 4, 2004 p. H2 by Linda Matchan
Get a sense of Security
Have presidential politics reaised your anxiety level? Is the threat of terrorism keeping you awake? Try going to bed with a Homeland Security Blanket, a limited-edition wool bed cover with its own color-coded alert system. Designed by artist Chrissy Conant, the blanket is signed and numbered, and at 90 inches by 90 inches, it will fit a queen- or a king-size bed. The Homeland Security Blanket, is available at the Shop at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. To order call 212-849-8355.
Turning Fear on Its Head With a Soft, Cozy Blanket
October 28, 2004 p. F3 by Eve Kahn
Chrissy Conant, an artist in New York, sometimes lies awake at night worrying about terrorism. To calm her fears by confronting them, she said, she designed the Chrissy Homeland Security Blanket, a soft-napped queen-size blanket bearing the legend of the Homeland Security Advisory System in colors that are "a little brighter, a little more pleasant" than those used by the Department of Homeland Security.Ý The blanket, which is made by Pendleton Woolen Mills, comes in a signed, limited edition of 100 from http://www.chrissyconant.com; the Lyons Wier Gallery (511 West 25th Street, Suite 205); or the gift shop of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2 East 91st Street).
Where Art Studio Meets Science Lab
May 8, 2004 by Robin Marantz Henig
The images of fetuses and babies that greet visitors who walk into the New York Academy of Sciences are not what you might expect: an infant in silhouette seeming to float in a bright yellow sky, its chest, head and genitals obscured by an eerie shadow; a fetus in extreme close-up, huge head and ropey arms covered in spores that make it look more like a creature from Mars than like anything human. They are disturbing images, but so far only one person has complained: the head of catering services at the academy.
"She said we were heading into a big season for weddings; a lot of people rent this building after hours for parties and other events," said Fred Moreno, director of the gallery at the academy, on the Upper East Side. "And she didn't think that people on their way to a bar mitzvah were going to enjoy being greeted by images of fossilized fetuses."
The exhibition, on display until June 18, is called "Reprotech: Building Better Babies?" It uses visual imagery to illustrate and, Mr. Moreno hopes, spark debate about some of the most controversial topics in biology today: genetically engineered "designer babies," otherworldly pre-embryos, donor eggs as commodities and various other ideas about fetuses, fossilized and nonfossilized.
These are some of the most emotionally fraught issues in biology today, raising questions about birth, love, heredity and what it means to be human. And when these issues are explored through the lens of the visual arts, rather than in the words of the scientists themselves or, occasionally, of the science writers who set themselves up as scouts and translators, the questions are more visceral, less literal. This isn't science explained in layman's terms; this is science looked at in a way that, strictly speaking, doesn't involve terms at all.
Unlike the language we usually use to explore scientific topics, visual images reach people through a pathway having little to do with cognition, bringing them to some elemental understanding of what they see. That's why a photograph like Gina Marie's "Fossilized Fetus" is so gripping. The fetus is a shape not to mention a word and a concept that we've come to accept as representing humanity at its most inchoate and vague. And yet here it is, a real fetus in full color and larger than life, spackled with the markings of advanced old age. This juxtaposition of the oldest old and the youngest young is startling especially when you stumble upon it in the venerable halls of an academy of science.
The academy's show is just one of many forums, most of them not in art galleries, that have been trying recently to mix art and science. In this month alone, City University of New York is presenting a staged reading of a play by Ira Hauptman about two famous mathematicians (May 17); Rockefeller University is offering a panel discussion on creativity in science and art (May 18); and the International Center of Photography is showing a small exhibition called "The Art of Science" (through May). It remains to be seen whether any of these attempts, and dozens like them, part of a genre some call sci-art, will have an impact on a population that remains fearful of, and largely ignorant about, science.
But Suzanne Anker, the curator of "Reprotech," seems hopeful. "Visual images turn the technical talk of science into the emotional domain of public discourse," she and Dorothy Nelkin (who was, until her death last year, a professor of sociology at New York University) write in their new book, "The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age" (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory). "Thus, they help us arrange the cultural assimilation of the genetic revolution."
Ms. Anker and Ms. Nelkin quote from the curator of another exhibition of visual art inspired by genetics: "Art can render technology intelligible to the public and allows a process of self-reflection to begin."
So how well do the 23 works of art in the "Reprotech" show render technology intelligible? It depends, partly, on your knowledge. Ms. Anker herself has a work here, and it becomes more interesting the more you know about genetics.
In the piece, "Origins and Futures," a handful of bright white sculptured fetuses are arrayed in a large case meant to resemble a jewelry display at a shop like Tiffany's. Presented this way, the fetuses are riffs on the idea of designer babies: look, these can be yours, just as a flawless diamond can be yours, if you have enough money and taste. Scattered among the fetuses are pieces of pyrite, a sparkly rock, offering their own silent commentary, since pyrite is known as fool's gold: something that isn't what it appears to be.
On another level, pyrite is here because some scientists believe that on the ancient earth, it was the stimulus for life itself. The theory is that in those pre-life days, all that existed was RNA, a primitive cousin of DNA, and that pyrite offered the template, in the form of its crystals, through which RNA learned to replicate and to become DNA.
Something similar can be said for many of the other pieces here (indeed, it can be said for much of art): the more you know, the more interesting it is. Consider another work in the exhibition, "Chrissy Caviar." It's a framed print designed by Chrissy Conant, with an image of herself in a ball gown at the center, meant to serve as a label for a tin containing one of her own eggs, which was harvested after she took fertility drugs. In a larger space, the tin itself would be part of the display, housed in a see-through refrigerator. If you think about it, this is actually a bit of performance art: Ms. Conant really took those fertility drugs, really had her own eggs harvested, really put one of them into a tin that she had so carefully labeled as containing "one egg, human tubal fluid, net weight .00000006 oz."
Explaining the implications of reproductive technology by using her own body as a canvas this is why a society needs its artists, to take its developments and transgressions to their logical, and sometimes even illogical, conclusions.
If these works were shown in art galleries rather than in the public space of a scientific organization, Ms. Anker said, "the discourse would get stuck" in the vernacular of the art world. At the academy, with people moving through the lobby on their way to conferences, something else happens, or at least that's what Ms. Anker hopes. As she put it, "When you move art out of the gallery and into another space, it expands the discourse."
On June 10 Ms. Anker will test that theory herself. She has organized a public forum, "Embryonic Visions: Social Implications of Reproductive Technologies," at which scholars will discuss the cultural impact of high-tech baby-making.
There is always the risk, of course, that sci-art will turn out to be a hybrid beast, its practitioners creating either science-oriented art that is not very good artistically, or artistic science that is not scientifically rigorous. But the attempt to cultivate relationships between artists and scientists is crucial. We live in a culture dominated by Hollywood images that distort people's understanding of complex issues in reproductive technology.
Consider cloning, for instance, which has been turned monstrous for all the wrong reasons in films like "The Boys From Brazil," "Multiplicity" and, most recently, the critically panned "Godsend." In such a setting sci-art, well thought out, might be a major step toward scientific literacy.
Artists, when they do their job well, create accessible representations of the real world, bringing people to a better understanding of science than can be attained even by reading a serious-minded newspaper. Art can do something that language does only rarely: it can lead to a visceral understanding of the world that is quite different from what we achieve by reading words on the printed page, and possibly more long-lasting and true.
Robin Marantz Henig is the author of "Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution."
North by northwest
March 5 -11, 2004 by Christopher Millis
"Self-Evidence: Identity in Contemporary Art"
At the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, through May 30.
Two thoughtful, ambitious, uneven group shows north and west of Boston point to the potential and the pitfalls of the art world's version of the multiplex. Like any solo exhibit, of course, the group show is only as good as its parts, and what it takes away in depth - on average each artist is represented by four pieces in these exhibits - it gives back in variety. If you aren't taken by one person's vision, you may be another's.
Unlike the solo show, however, the multi-person exhibit has to tangle with its theme. Why bring these particular 12 or 28 artists together in the first place? And themes get tricky fast. Too broadly defined, the grouping seems meaningless. Too narrowly defined, the curator's selection standard can overshadow the art. (I'm reminded of a show a few years ago in which a gallery director insisted all the work be white, whether it started out that way or not.)
Something like narrowness describes the difficulty I had with "Self-Evidence: Identity in Contemporary Art," a far-flung, highly accomplished, and in a few instances staggeringly wonderful affair on the theme of self-portraiture, though the inflated title would lead you to understand it differently. Twenty-eight artists contribute to "Self-Evidence," and that in itself may be part of the problem. How do you pay attention to the quiet and unobtrusive - those works that are small in scale, technically subtle, muted in pitch and color - when the big and the bright and the boisterous clamor for your attention in the same space?
I'm a shameless fan of Gerry Bergstein's outrageous Screams Throughout Art History, an over-the-to oil painting in which the artist's open-mouthed, cross-eyed, splayed-tongued, screaming face appears to be exploding out of the firmament. Bergstein's disembodied head is surrounded by body parts, paint brushes and images of other artists' screaming faces(Munch, Michelangelo, and Homer Simpson foremost among them). It's a furious, incendiary, and largely silly confection that measures in at five feet long and over two feet tall. After seeing it in the main gallery space with a number of other powerful, sizable, in-your-face works, who will have the energy or the peace of mind to climb the stairs and take in the dreamy, muted, letter-sized watercolors of Ambreen Butt? Moreover, if you don't pause at the mezzanine level on your way up to the main gallery, youll probably miss the seven exquisite, miniature photo collages by John O'Reilly. And that would be a shame.
The best work in "Self-Evidence" takes the artists self-portrait out of the mirror and into the world. In O'Reilly's case, the world is simultaneously real and imaginary, nightmarish and hilarious: he cuts and pastes his own body (scrawny, bald-headed, often naked) into old photographs of renowned artists or their masterworks. In With Bonnard, O'Reilly stands with his backside visible to us, as if in a performers worst dream, naked before the great painter. Bonnard, in turn, appears to be staring against at O'Reilly's crotch. In As Rimbaud and Verlaine, O'Reilly grafts the two poets' faces onto his own hairless, underfed body. It is the accomplishment of his art to transform shame into power and vulnerability into strength through humor. He insists on his own place among the masters, no matter how foolish-looking he is, no matter how-out-of place.
"Self-Evidence" suffers when it takes itself too seriously. Bill Viola's 17-minute film of his unmoving, unchanging, uninteresting face - punctuated every so often by a deafening gasp (surprise! he's been holding his breath!)' finds its self-absorbed complement in Linn Underhill's attitude-drenched photographic versions of herself in men's clothing. Even Sage Sohier's color photos of herself with her mother register as grim and ultimately self-absorbed - her interest in her mother appears strictly a function of how mom resembles her camera-packing child.
On the other hand, I have seldom laughed as hard, been as dismayed, or done as abrupt a double take as I did when I beheld Chrissy Conant's installation Chrissy Caviar. It took me a full minute to figure out that the '50s-style circular advertisement on the wall with a smiling woman in a strapless evening gown is modeled after the lid of a caviar jar. It took me another full minute to appreciate that the hard-to-see black letters on the dark-blue background, "PRODUCT OF THE CHRISSY CONANT OVARIES," relate to the glowing white orb rising from the woman's extended hand and refer directly to what's in the jars in the nearby refrigeration unit. Still, only when I forced myself to read the wall text ("refrigeration equipment containing a series of twelve jars, each jar containing one human egg . . .") did it dawn on me that Conant was selling her own eggs as caviar. (A nearby lap-top sports the Web site for placing your order.) Not since Andy Warhol has anyone taken the visual language of the marketplace and made it so thoroughly her own; not since Cindy Sherman has somebody so radically recast her likeness as to become something else.
Other marvelous work in "Self-Evidence" includes Harriet Casdin-Silver"s astonishing holograms, Randall Deihl's wry Self-Portrait with Imaginary Tattoos, and Susan Hauptmans accomplished drawings.
At the Fitchburg Art Museum, 12 artists and one artist team make up the seventh biennial "New England/New Talent." A relatively small and remote treasure of an art museum, the Fitchburg space offers its artists the breathing room that few venues closer to Boston can provide. The abstract installations of Cambridge artist Nancy Murphy Spicer, for instance, are able to occupy walls and hallways, ceilings and floors, over enough square feet so that her strangely elegant confections read like elaborate lichen or fungi. Spicer applies acrylic paint to the walls she's given or the walls she manipulates to create three-dimensional drawings. One part of Drawing Object looks like a six-foot-tall, upside-down musical note; another suggests melting skin as fleshy-pink strings drip from the ceiling into indecorous pools on the floor.
Another tripartite abstract wall installation by Susan Prince Thompson enjoys a less visceral, more cerebral feel. Thompson's three contributions look as if they should always be displayed together, implying as they do a mysterious development or progression. Canto, made mostly of paper (random book pages embedded in thick, handmade paper that resembles cloth), looks like the front of a little girl's dress. Beside it, Meander is a wall-sized network of feathery wire webs; the end of each wire is tightly bound by a thin wrap of paper like a Q-tip. On a separate wall at a 90-degree angle to Meander, The Riddle of Memory sprawls flat and tendril-like, an immense nerve cell.
Three other artists stand out in "New England/New Talent." Mark Heitzman's photo-realist graphite drawings - a stack of bricks, an old tool, a rotted milk can - do more than testify to his superior skills as a draftsman. These images evoke lost worlds. One of the bricks is dated "1952," and the milk can's decay and the tool's obsolescence make his drawings poignant as tombstones. Engaging, too, are Dorothea Van Camp's abstract drawings of wax, graphite, and crayon; they look like a cross between industrial designs and aerial views of hurricanes, alternately orderly and tumultuous. And in his black-and-white photographs, Nicholas Johnson arranges flagstones and pools of water in his studio to create pictures that look like tremendous glaciers.
Chrissy Conant's Edible Metaphors
November, 2003 by Danielle Cannon
"It is not in life, but in art that self-fulfillment is to be found." This quote, taken from George E. Woodberry, resonates with truth that one encounters in Chrissy Caviar, an installation formerly at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, now made accessible through www.chrissycaviar.com. Under the "General Information" section on her website, Chrissy Conant explains the technical basis for her idea. "I have arranged for glass jars, lids and labels to be manufactured and supplied, as well as customized, glass specimen tubes complete with caps. I have also contracted an embryologist, who packaged each egg for me at an IVF lab under the proper, sterile conditions. He, in turn, introduced me to an endocrinologist, who prescribed a month's worth of injectable hormone treatments, and tracked my progress with ultrasound, and blood tests, so that during ovulation, I produced approximately twelve eggs instead of the typical single egg, of a normal ovulatory cycle. My eggs were gathered and used to make art, not embryos." The final product, the artists eggs, are packaged much the way caviar would be- glass container and all. The artist, a brave and extremely honest woman, allows her medical, educational and family history to be displayed on the website, much like the art itself. This is just one way that she allows the audience to connect to her work. Another way in which someone can relate is through the whopping metaphor she serves up when she makes a parallel between human eggs and caviar. While perhaps a little shocking on first consideration, the idea of making ones eggs available for "consumption" is a grand social commentary on what dating and mating amounts to for a thirty-something woman. After all, people are judged all the time by their genetics, the obvious manifestation of this being appearances, the not so obvious being the ability to successfully reproduce. Is genetic partnership, i.e. marriage with the intention of starting a family, the most brutal of judgments? Conant writes: "In the context of fine art, using my genes as a commodity, I am making art with my body, by collaborating with technology. And I am trying to manifest, and be productive with, my highly emotional desires to find Mr. Right, and create a family together."
Is Conant in fact trying to reverse societys judgment of her by being as honest as possible? Is she arguing that genetic characteristics are unable to be faked, while physical ones like hair or eye color can be? Furthermore, what effect does this have on someone who wants to find a partner to start a family with? And finally, though you can end an ill-fated relationship, can you ever really separate yourself from your own DNA?
Angela Davis once said, "Progressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensely social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation." Perhaps the cutting edge nature of this project influenced the amount of media attention it received. Publications like ARTFORUM, The Financial Times, and The New York Times have all taken notice of Conants original idea. While some have suggested that the art deals with the "commercialization of reproduction" (ARTFORUM, October 2002), it is ultimately a personal interpretation. William Zimmer, of The New York Times writes: "An advertising sign reproduced on the jar lids leaves no doubt about what the artist is after. If this advertising for a mate is a satire, it's an elaborate one." If nothing else, a quick visit to Conant's website gives the audience a chance to understand why this art isn't just about packaging.
Issue No. 426, p 56, Nov 27 - Dec 4, 2003 by Zoe Wolff
Spread sass as well as cheer with subversive creations by more than 40 local designers at Gifted, a brand-new holiday market curated by Lilah Freeland and housed in Chelsea's Rare Gallery. Noah Lyon's Retard Riot pins bear heartwarming missives such as "I've got a boner" ($2 each), and Orly Cogan's hankies are embroidered with naked ladies mouthing "Love me." ($75). Other unconventional stocking stuffers include Rachel Comey's black rubber commas ($200), which function as paperweights or balls (they bounce!), and Chrissy Conant's Homeland Security choker ($60) - a silver chain strung with interchangeable Plexiglas rectangles and messages that say LOW, GUARDED, ELEVATED, HIGH, AND SEVERE. Emily Lambert's handpainted cashmere scarves ($120) are less controversial but no less covetable.
All Choked Up
eNewsletter, Oct 3, 2003 by Amy Lieberg
Mood rings are so passe.ÝJust ask artist Chrissy Conant. Her latest endeavor, the Chrissy Homeland Security Choker, is one timely bauble. Conant was feeling a bit insecure about terrorism and thought you might be, too. Now, whether your security level is low, guarded, elevated, high, or--god forbid --severe, you can let the world know.ÝAfter all your body is your homeland. For more information or to buy, visit chrissyconant.com.
Issue no. 45, p 125, September 2003 by Chioma Nnadi
"I can't decide whether to buy duct tape, or not. Do I really need to pack an emergency escape bag?" said artist Chrissy Conant, nervously. Her new jewelry is paranoid fashion for paranoid times, and gives a whole new meaning to the words "body politic." Security alert connotations aside, these pieces are really part of a bigger mood barometer. Low, high, guarded, you choose your chain; it's the entire emotional spectrum.
"War and Peace: Artists' Voices"
p 23, Summer 2003
I'm feeling insecure. The threat of Terrorism. I'm obsessed. I'm choked up with fear. I can't sleep at night. I can't decide wether to buy duct tape, or not. Do I really need to pack an emergency escape bag? I'm listening to the radio. I'm watching CNN. I don't know what I'm feeling these days. I don't know what to do. My body is my Homeland. At least now, I can wear my own, personal sense of security for everyone to see, right around my neck no matter how often it changes.
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art
October 2002 p.157 by Meghan Dailey
Families are the stuff of great stories, both fictional and real, from Lear and the Sopranos to the Hapsburgs and Kennedys. We are all experts on the subject, whether our expertise lies in trying to escape family - with its dynamics of guilt, manipulation, and other dysfunctions - or working to create or re-create one. Group shows are yet another kind of familial collective, and the Aldrich Museum (a former house, appropriately enough) took on this unwieldy matter in "Family," bringing together a clan of thirty-seven artists who have made works that consider the institution in its many mutable forms: tribal, professional, religious, racial, alternative, and old-fashioned nuclear.
Offspring was a preoccupation in the exhibition. Tapping reproductive anxieties (and pushing the envelope of good taste) was "Chrissy Caviar," 2001-2002. For this Bad Girl art in the age of in vitro piece, artist Chrissy Conant harvested twelve of her eggs and sealed them in small vials. The containers were then packaged into jars with labels announcing their weight and ingredients alongside an image of the artist in sexy attire. Presented as a delicacy available in limited quantity for consumption only by those who can afford it, the piece jabbed at both the egg-selling racket and the art market. Similarly provocative, video artist Maria Marshall, who often uses her children as subjects (a much discussed 1999 digitally manipulated image by the artist shows her two-year-old son taking a drag from a cigarette), opened afresh the old Sally Mann debate about objectifying young bodies and emotions. "President Bill Clinton, Memphis, Tennessee, November 13, 1993," 2000, depicts one of Marshall's boys reading a speech by the former president espousing loving parental structures. His too-young voice highlights the artificiality of the words.
Maternal power seemed to dominate, as milk, the uber-domestic beverage, flowed liberally. For example, Nan Goldin's tableau of twenty-four photographs portraying women before and after pregnancy was replete with swollen breasts and nursing babies. The perils that beset families of two, on the other hand, were painfully laid bare in Sophie Calle's "Autobiographies (The Rival)," 1992, which includes the text of a love letter Calle discovered her husband had written to another woman. In a wrenching, ineffectual way of reclaiming her husband and excising his lover, Calle edited out the woman's initial, replacing it with her own.
With so subjective a theme, "Family" was understandably broad, but even so a few selections were stretches. Among them, Nicole Eisenman's "Hunting," 2000, depicted a "tribe" of women in snow gear sneaking up on two men whose helicopter has crashed in frozen arctic territory - providing, the wall text proposes, an example of an "alternative family structure." Works driven by personal narratives were better, including a new piece by Sanford Biggers in which Super-8 home movies of the artist's family at birthday parties, meals, and other gatherings were projected inside a small barnlike shed. Installed high in a tree in the museum's sculpture lawn and decorated on one side with glass bottles, the sculpture evoked southern vernacular traditions while nodding to the African tradition of creating altars in caves or trees in memory of the dead. Called "Racine de Memoire" (Root of Memory), Biggers's piece seemed the perfect metaphor: The family may turn our world upside down or be a safe haven of unconditional acceptance, but it is always an almost palpable receptacle for memory and self.
The New York Times, Art Review
A Varied Tour of Connecticut's Treasures
July 26, 2002 by Grace Glueck
Almost as pervasive a subject in art as the nude, the family is approached from some quirky angles in a show at the Aldrich in Ridgefield of works by 37 contemporary artists, including Nan Goldin, Faith Ringgold and Louise Bourgeois. In "Family," they zero in on the often dysfunctional institution in paintings, sculptures, video and installation art with views that don't always espouse family values.
On the satirical side, "I AM U R ME," Tony Tasset's take on togetherness in family life, is a video of mother, dad and child at the breakfast table, continually morphing into one another as they exchange places and fond smiles. A family - as yet unrealized - is Chrissy Conant's pursuit as she makes a pitch for Mr. Right by showing a dozen of her harvested eggs packaged as caviar, enticingly displayed in a refrigerated vitrine. And in "Patriarchy," Travis Greery exhibits 100 white plaster casts of her father's head, consecutively diminishing in size down to that of a pea as she outgrows his parental mentorship.
More movingly, Alan Berliner examines the relationship between himself and his lonely, recalcitrant father in a film entitled "Nobody's Business," and in a narrative quilt Faith Ringgold imagines dead members of her family assembled in the Matisse Chapel at Vence, France, accompanied by a text that lays out a brutal tale of slavery. On the whole, this energetic show has many more hits than misses.
The New York Times, Connecticut Section
Family, Functional and Otherwise
June 16, 2002 by William Zimmer
"Family" at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield has it over most other theme shows, because it has heart. The family is a ubiquitous theme and, naturally, an emotional one. But not all families, happy or unhappy, are alike, and the sprawling Aldrich show bears this out in a wealth of family stories presented from many angles.
Thirty-seven artists constitute a big show, especially when it features a lot of space-consuming installation art. Videos and films, projected in large formats, have their own darkened rooms. But smaller pieces make strong statements too.
It wouldn't be a show at the Aldrich without some splashy art, and the winner in this category goes to Sean Mellyn's "It's a Beautiful Day," consisting of a large painting of a squealing toddler surrounded by 29 mixed-media objects that might be the fruits of the child's young imagination. They might have been invented by Bosch, or a Surrealist, but for the bright colors.
Some of the objects are a little bit frightening. Gracing the cover of the show's catalog is one of these objects, a milk carton with a doll's arms and legs. It becomes human-like as it trips and spills milk.
Milk appears several times in the show, as one of the glues, besides blood, than can keep a family together. Jin-me Yoon's large C-print photographs with bright pink backgrounds form a diptypch. One half features children sitting on a puddle easily read as milk, though it seems sticky like white paint. From one mouth comes a fountain of this substance. That's the insouciant upside. The negative half is a writhing woman clad in black with six legs and milk trickling form her head as if she's been wounded. The artist calls the diptych "Intersection V," and clashes of viewpoints are endemic to this show.
Shifts in scale are also important, and have psychological import. Tony Tasset's "I Am U R Me" is a seamless videotape featuring a family of three at breakfast. Sometimes the young boy morphs into someone very large who dwarfs his parents, who often shrink. Travis Geary's "Patriarchy" is an array of white ceramic busts of his father. They shrink incrementally in size, and a long lineup of them resembles a spinal column.
The never-tidy relationship between fathers and sons is best and most thoroughly explored by Alan Berliner in an hourlong 16-millimeter film titled "Nobody's Business" after a phrase Mr. Berliner's father emphatically repeats when the topic of locating lost familly members is broached.
Tatsumi Orimoto celebrates his mother in three pictures by photographing her standing in a large cardboard box: first by herself, with an elderly gentleman neighbor in a second picture and with Mr. Orimoto, too, in the third. Mira Schor pays homage to her family in a direct low-tech way. Ms. Schor is a painter, as was her father, Ilya. Her mother, Resia, is a sculptor. Ms. Schor's perennnial subject is language and its mutability and her main imagery is written words tht sometimes overlap on canvas or go in and out of the pigment. Two of these fluid conceptual commentaries flank her father's poignant "Scribe at Home," painted in 1950. Two of her mother's inventive brass pieces from 1976, each titled "Fragmented Mezuzah" are on the other side of a painting by Ms. Schor. Her presentation here is a refined meditation on continuity and change.
Change is what Chrissy Conant, who is not married, is betting on in her installation "Chrissy Caviar." Her hoped-for family is represented by a refrigerated display case that is full of jars that each contain only one egg, a human one harvested from Ms. Conant. An advertising sign reproduced on the jar lids leaves no doubt about what the artist is after. If this advertising for a mate is a satire, it's an elaborate one.
Actual babies are the subject of Nan Goldin's photomontage "From Here to Maternity." Maternity is omnipresent in a detailed and intimate photomontage primarily of mothers and their babies. The accumulation of mother-love without sentimentality makes this a compelling work of art. Off to one side so that the viewer has to come across it is the fetchingly simple "Mementos" by Olu Oguibe, simply a cardboard carton with the flaps open serving as a crib for four dolls.
The major aspect of family life not covered in the exhibition is the sibling relationship. But dynamic family life is behind one of the most imaginative and wide-ranging, though essentially nonvisual, pieces in the show. Geof Huth's "Words of the Family" is a lexicon of words that members of his family have coined. Mr. Huth believes that every family makes up words for things and events peculiar to its members, and invites viewers to write examples of their families' special words and their meanings on cards that are accumulating in a Rolodex.
"Family" is at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield through Sept. 4. Information: (203) 438-4519 or www.aldrichart.org.
Taking on the Family at The Aldrich Museum"Family" as a theme for 37 contemporary artists provides us with a thought-provoking experience. Just don't expect anything warm and fuzzy.
June 11, 2002 by Carol Sims
RIDGEFIELD, CONN. -- Located in suburban Connecticut on the Main Street of a town that predates the Revolutionary War, The Aldrich Museum is known for showing only contemporary art. Whereas many museums have a contemporary department, The Aldrich does nothing else. Neither do they collect art, having deaccessioned the last of the Aldrich collection in the mid-1980s. Consequently, they do not have to curate a collection, conserve a collection, lend a collection, or seek acquisitions. Instead, they spend 100 percent of their resources showcasing contemporary art in a meaningful way. Their summer exhibition, "Family," breaks new territory and is a case in point
In the contemporary cutting-edge art world, artists' work (and the Bohemian lifestyles expected of the artists themselves) is often the antithesis of the notion of "family," especially of the cares and responsibilities of raising children. This museum makes the point that nothing is off limits, not even admitting that somewhere along the line artists have had or have familial ties, and that these ties can provide inspiration for their work.
In fact, in our day (cloning prohibited) everyone has parents, whether they like it or not. No self-generated artistic entities here. Contemporary artists have all sorts of familial ties: siblings, parents, spouses/mates or children of their own. With this show the Aldrich has taken on a very complex topic. "Family" as a theme for 37 contemporary artists provides us with a thought-provoking experience. Just do not go expecting anything warm and fuzzy.
The exhibition was curated by two artists, Claudia Matzko and Matthew McCaslin, as well as three museum staffers: director Harry Philbrick, assistant director Richard Klein, and curator Jessica Hough. The five curators worked together to bring an artistic acknowledgement to the Art World at Large that cutting-edge artists not only have families, but they have something meaningful to say about them. They started out with 100 artists in mind, and narrowed it down to 37. Some of those artists are internationally known, others are emerging, and one is just out of grad school.
On view through September 4, "Family" includes painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, video and installation art. The works examine marriage, children, sexuality, gender roles, social class, aging, disease and loss, fertility, infidelity and sibling rivalry. "We didn't want this show to be [just] about kids," said Hough.
Much of the show revolves around human generation. A Laura Dunn film entitled Baby was converted to a DVD installation. It records a young man and woman discussing whether or not to have kids. A large fascinating Cibachrome print by Margi Geerlinks shows a white-haired man in a white shirt at a sewing machine apparently sewing the skin on a young blond boy. Entitled "Pinocchio," it makes you wonder about our basic need for generation and desire for children. Will we try any technology to create them? Does it take two to tango?
"Chrissy's Caviar" is a technically appealing but gut-wrenchingly vulgar presentation of a woman's desire to procreate, and to be valued for her ability to procreate. The artist Chrissy Conant underwent medical treatment to harvest more than a dozen of her own viable eggs and packaged 12 of them in attractive, labeled glass jars. The 12 jars were placed in a refrigerated glass and stainless steel display case, such as one might find at the neighborhood delicatessen. Each jar was signed and numbered and for sale. Spaced evenly on the shelves, the piece had the impact of repetition that we find in Warhol's soup can imagery, only much more sterile.
Conant was just polishing up the display when the press tour came through. She explained that each collector would also get a ten-minute DVD when they purchased one of her now-past-their-expiration-date eggs. "I absolutely want to have children," said Conant, who has not gone as far as to say "buy one egg get one free."
Probably the least kid-friendly work in the show is Robert Melee's "Mommy and Me." A collection of photographs assembled in a montage showing the artist's mother (and sometimes him with her) in shocking nonmotherly situations and poses. According to Hough, the artist intends to stretch the maternal stereotype beyond social norms. How did he ever talk her into taking off her clothes, wearing burlesque make-up and wigs and letting her grown son sit on her lap nude? His mother has become his collaborator and has relished her new role as artist's inspiration; both the artist and his mom attended the opening reception. In this work, Melee has intuitively covered the photos under a garish film of yellow cellophane.
Louise Bourgeois created a smaller-than-life figurative sculpture of an embracing couple. She used golden brown terrycloth for the surface of the bodies. It has a mossy organic look. The woman is positioned higher than the man, as if floating as she hugs him in their vertical embrace. He has no arms. One gets the feeling that this couple has been together for a very long time. It has an aura of comfortable love.
Nan Goldin mounted 24 Cibachrome prints in a 60- by 100-inch testament to motherhood entitled "From Here to Maternity." Intimate images of nursing babies and pregnant women capture the joy and fulfillment of close private moments. Rather than feeling like a voyeur, the artist achieves a sense of innocence and enjoyment of these moments. Attorney General John Ashcroft definitely would not like it.
Two pieces in the show stand out as metaphors for modern family life. Jonathan Seliger's stack of pizza boxes (all painstakingly fabricated out of oil, alkyd, acrylic, modeling paste, varnish, on canvas on a lacquer and steel table) and Barbara Pollack's "Perfect Dark" video installation showing the transfixed gaze of her 14-year-old son playing a video game next to a screen of the game as he played it. The pieces are telling. Families have less time to cook and frequently let children occupy themselves for hours on end with mesmerizing and sometimes violent video games. The game used in "Perfect Dark" was the shoot-and-kill variety.
"I Am U R Me" was created by Tony Tasset in 1998 with the help of a technician. The 30-second DVD loop was very clever. A family of three sat at breakfast with the father, mother and son morphing into each other as they ate. The artist and his family were the subjects of the video. It was done with a nonlooping soundtrack of birdsong and spoons hitting the cereal bowls. As a member of a family, individual identity is sometimes usurped with family identity. Like picking up an accent from the locals, we pick up characteristics of our immediate family. It was easy to watch this piece for several minutes.
Ginger Krebs also morphs identity. Her untitled piece takes a woman's and man's shirts and interlocks them by way of sewing together the slightest of fabric strips cut from the bottom of the two shirts. The shirts look as if they are growing out of each other and have become one. The rocking chair on which they were placed carried the metaphor further, hinting at the effects of time on a couple and their joint identity, as well as comfort.
The explosive creativity of a child's mind was exemplified in Sean Mellyn's huge 96- by 60-inch colorful oil on canvas with 29 installed objects filling a good portion of one of the exhibition spaces in the show. It was entitled "It's a Beautiful Day." A preschooler with bright eyes and wide-open mouth throws her or his hands in the air. Animate nonsensical objects try to crawl into the already full head of the child. Or are they crawling out? Too much stimulation? The piece embodies the uncontrollable energy of a two-year-old. The artist intended for the piece to express a generic universal experience. "I have no interest in children per se," said Mellyn. "It is a creative playful thing."
John Corbin abstracted his family ties in his installation. Colored plastic spheres were suspended in an overhead sculpture. Each globe represented a member of his family, with his father at the center and top. The globes were connected with copper tubing and were lit from within. On the carpet of the house-like structure containing the installation was a map of Girlmandy, a mixture of Germany and Ireland. Corbin's five brothers and two sisters and many nieces and nephews were represented according to how they voiced their geographic ethnic heritage. "What they say is what they are," stated Corbin. The room was cozy and celestial at the same time.
Similarities within the middle class in spite of different racial backgrounds was one of the themes of an outdoor installation by Sanford Biggers for his "Racine de Memoire." The piece was built on site using a storage shed on museum property that used to belong to Larry Aldrich (1906-2001). The shed was placed up in the trees on an angle. The artist originally wanted to use an old tree fort, but was pleased to be offered the museum founder's shed. The "roof" (floor of the shed) was decorated with spirit bottles, a tradition that stems from the South to ward off evil spirits by trapping them in bottles. Inside was a video projection of super 8 film converted to DVD of a black family and a white family as they went through the same middle class experiences, such as birthday parties and Disneyland. The public can climb up into the structure, which has been heavily reinforced.
A classically beautiful sculpture is the cast and carved plaster figures of the artist and her female companion in "Memorial to a Marriage." The figures of two women in a sleepy embrace are expertly rendered. Folds of fabric drape over the lower half of the figures. Artist Patricia Cronin wishes to honor her relationship in the form of mortuary sculpture of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. "Cronin's ambitious sculpture celebrates and makes official in death her 'marriage,' which cannot be made legal in life," wrote Hough in her introduction to the show's catalog.
While the art speaks eloquently for itself in the museum, the catalog fails to speak eloquently for much of the art in the show. In spite this, the catalog is sprinkled with outstanding poetry chosen by Steven Henry Madoff. It also has a good "acknowledgement" essay by Harry Philbrick and a strong introduction essay by Jessica Hough that touches on about nine of the 37 artists in the show. The poetry extends the theme of the exhibition, but does not shed any light on the intent of the artists in creating their pieces, nor does it include any descriptions of the pieces (other than title, date, medium, size and photo credits), or artists' statements. The installation pieces and multimedia pieces would have especially benefited from a little elaboration, since one still photograph of them is hardly even a reminder of the impact of the work. This is all of the more reason to go and see it in person before it closes on September 4.
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 258 Main Street, is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 pm. For information, 203-438-4519 or visit www.aldrichart.org.
The truth about moms and dads
June 8, 2002 by Clare Henry
No one chooses his family, but it marks each of us for life. Today's "family" relationships may have changed and widened, but our dependence on a notion of family ("nuclear" or not) remains firm, and since we are all authorities on this emotive subject, taking it on artistically is a brave move. The Aldrich Museum's summer show, Family, does this surprisingly successfully. In fact it's one of the most imaginative thematic shows of contemporary art I have seen in a long time.
Thirty-seven artists tackle various family issues, large and small. Some, like Louise Bourgeois or Mark Wallinger, are big names; most are in mid-career and employ an experimental approach that, unusually, can be both thoughtful and enlightening.
The catalogue kicks off in conventional mode with cover images showing children: two young terrors being naughty with their milk photographed by Canadian Jin-me Yoon, plus a baby doll detail from Sean Mellyn's installation. Motherhood also features in Nan Goldin's candid shots, "From Here to Maternity", and in Barbara Pollack's video of her son. But these are by no means the most interesting pieces. In art as in life, more mature relationships provide the real spice, vide Alan Berliner's film of conversations with his father.
Too many videos and DVD films are excruciatingly slow and self-indulgent. Family has several that are excellent. Berliner's piece delivers a rare punch of memorable honesty. His father is an opinionated man and we watch as he resists his son's questions, sparring hard in every shot. A tumour operation changes the balance between parent and offspring - a process shown in moving close-up.
British artist Maria Marshall originally worked as a sculptor creating large-scale metal pieces. Her film is no less ambitious. Here, her two sons pounce on a room full of presents, speedily unwrapping every box to create a sea of red wrapping paper, accompanied by a smooth voice-over of Clinton's 1993 speach preaching discipline. President, Enron CEO, parent: "do as I say not as I do" is too often the message, and her scenario hits the mark with aplomb.
Another quite brilliant video is Tony Tasset's "I AM U R ME, 1998" where over a 30-second loop, he, his wife and son, all wearing blue T-shirts, metamorphose into each other with uncanny grace. Act your age, parents order - but we all know that sometimes years have nothing to do with maturity. Mark Wallinger is represented by a less compelling video installation of the British royal family at Ascot on four consecutive years.
With so many lenses documenting the family, it would have been easy to cram the show with photography, but, as curator Jessica Hough explains, "we wanted work in different media, from painting and sculpture to installation." In fact, photography, film and video make up almost half the show between them, and there is almost no painting here; but the so-called "applied art" exhibits are a bonus, providing some of the most interesting conceptual work.
Josiah McElheny's engraved "Passglas" - loving cups linked by a fragile glass chain - celebrate happy unions. Well sited in a small corner room, they are not to be missed. Travis Geery uses a ceramic trail of ever-smaller male heads to make his point about the diminution of patriarchy. Ernesto Pujol's white ceramics carry a more ominous tone, his white baby shoes framed by Nazi porcelain plates. Ginger Krebs' dress/shirt, sewn so that the two merge, speaks of the close relationship long-married couples often have, while Faith Ringgold's fabric hanging converts Matisse's chapel into a commentary on slavery.
Chrissy Conant's provocative "Caviar" installation comprises 12 jars each holding an egg suspended in liquid silicone and topped with a circular label showing her in provocative pose with the legend "Caucasian. Packed by private IVF Centre, USA. Product of the Conant ovaries. Net weight .0000015 grams. Keep refrigerated." The eggs, she says, were harvested by an embryologist after intensive hormone treatment. Her aim is "to manifest my highly emotional desire to find Mr Right and create a family together." With the ticking of biological clocks currently on many women's minds, this candid marketing ploy will resonate, and prove controversial too. Equally frank is Patricia Cronin's classic white memorial-style sculpture of herself and partner entwined asleep, celebrating lesbian love.
For all families, eating and accommodation is central. Mark Bennett's floor plans of famous sit-coms like Frasier cleverly poke fun at the key role TV also plays. Jon Seliger's five pizza boxes (actually canvas skilfully painted to mimic cheap cardboard and carefully labelled anchovy, mushrooms, etc) refer to the ironic need to accommodate everyone's tastes despite a diet of fast food.
The complexities of communication and body language are well expressed by Alan Wexler's huge, room-size wooden desk with a dozen different angled indentations for chairs. This results in a seating plan where some face away from their neighbour while others are forced into eye contact - much like many suburban breakfast tables.
Text and language also make an appearance in Geof Huth's dictionary of his children's pet names for things, including"flurp" and "swiggy gomogwa". Words appear in more serious vein in Sophie Calle's anguished love letter and Adrian Piper's heart-rending account of the tragic effect of her parents' heavy smoking habits.
The catalogue, though, is a disappointment, lacking essential information and awkwardly arranged. Ten poets were invited to contribute random thoughts, so the artists are forced into a crazy sequence to fit around the poems. However it's rare - and thus welcome - to see mid-career and emerging artists given this kind of profile. The Aldrich has spotted a gap and plugged it with a series of well-received shows. Its efforts to prise gallery-goers away from central Manhattan, and provide the surrounding suburban community of Ridgefield, Connecticut, with interesting if sometimes controversial subject-matter, has put it on the map.
FamilyOur families, exotic or mainstream, inspire new Aldrich exhibit
June 7, 2002 by Laurel Tuohy
[photo] Sean Mellyn's "It's A Beautiful Day" is a colorful eight-foot-high painting depicts a beautiful blond toddler whose forehead is literally bursting open with her fanciful, nonsensical ideas.
[photo] Chrissy Conant's "Chrissy Caviar" comments on how reproduction has become commercialized.
RIDGEFIELD - If someone told you to get in the "backy-back", would you know where to go?
What if they asked you to put on some "woobies?"
These are the subject matter of Geof Huth's "Words of the Family" installation at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. This piece, part of a larger exhibit called "Family," includes a dictionary and "wordex" (a Rolodex with words) of special made-up words that are used within families. The "backy-back" is "the way back of an SUV, behind the back seat" to one family, while "woobies" are "comfy, relaxation clothes" to another.
This ambitious show explores the constantly shifting nature of family life in the 21st century. Some recurring ideas include: marriage (traditional, non-traditional, and shunning of), children (to have or not to have, and how to raise), fertility (the use or waste of), sexuality, and aging. And don't expect to see some artist1s genealogical tree tracing back to "the old country" here; these works challenge the "existence of a 'typical' or 'normal' family."
The 37 artists included employ mediums from painting and sculpture, to video and installation art.
Sean Mellyn's "It's A Beautiful Day" is the most appealing work in the show, in both idea and execution. It is also the least controversial. A colorful eight-foot-high painting depicts a beautiful blond toddler whose forehead is literally bursting open with her fanciful, nonsensical ideas. The cartoonish sculptures (it's 3-D) "float" out of her head and onto the wall above, while other "ideas" have procured a ladder and are climbing down to the floor below where they march toward the viewer. A watermelon-like object "crawls" with a pair of chubby toddler arms and wheels instead of legs, a milk carton has toddler arms and legs but has fallen over and "his" milk is spilling out.
One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit is Travis Geery's "Patriarchy." From across the room it resembles the skeleton of a dinosaur's tail found at more pedestrian museums, but upon closer inspection, it1s a man's head, life-size, at one end, growing smaller and less distinct, down to the hundredth link, which is just a round, flax-colored pebble. To create this effect, Geery made a mold from a casting of his fathers head, then slip cast a clay head form in the mold and fired it in his kiln, where the usual pottery shrinkage occurred. Geery repeated this process 100 times, then lined up the heads in descending scale.
The piece represents the changing relationship between parent and child, between the artist and his dad. When we are young, our parents are the most important people in the world to us (as well as being much larger than us). As we mature the relationship changes (as does the size difference), and our parents occupy a smaller and smaller place in our consciousness as we begin lives of our own.
Of the seven video installations in the exhibition, Laura Dunn's "Baby" is the most thought-provoking. The black and white five minute 16mm film shows footage of a sweet toddler in a diaper playing in a yard. The soundtrack is a conversation between Dunn and her boyfriend about having a baby. Dunn states that every 10 seconds the world's population grows by 27 while a clock ticks continually and numbers flash (by the end of the video the world has 548 more people in it). The clock symbolizes both the population increase and Dunn's own dreaded "biological clock." She tries to reconcile her strong instinct to procreate with her knowledge that the world is overpopulated; her boyfriend describes his strong urge for sex, but not children. He says sex is no longer directly connected to having a baby, that it's something we can and should control. Though a serious topic, it's a playful piece with sounds of the couple laughing and kissing during their conversation.
Other videos fall flat, however. Doug Hall's "These Are The Rules" has the artist, looking like an aging Max Headroom, sporting a greasy gray ducktail and oversize reflective sunglasses yelling parental dictates such as "Keep Your Nose Clean" and "Always Try Your Best."
Patricia Cronin's "Memorial to a Marriage," is a beautiful sculpture of a couple with their arms around each other in bed. Carved out of stark white plaster, it's reminiscent of a shroud. With this piece the artist wants to "make official in death her 'marriage', which cannot be made legal in this life." Did I mention her partner is a woman?
Artist Sophie Calle's "Autobiographies (The Rival)" is one of the most talked about pieces in the show. Though nothing much to look at, a six-foot-high typed letter, its discovery was life-changing to Calle. The letter is from her husband to his mistress, a love letter that she had always requested but never received. The size of the work is "probably no exaggeration of the impact it had on her." On the letter, Calle has crossed out the woman's initial "H.," and inserted her own, as well as making grammatical and stylistic corrections on it. Her husband wrote "You1re a phone number by a photo I have listed in my head. You are always for me a destination and a place to reach for every night." Well, she didn't divorce Shakespeare.
Robert Melee's "Mommy and Me" is a collection of snapshots that feels like passing a car wreck on the highway
Chrissy Conant's "Chrissy Caviar" is one of the most hyped installations in the show. Conant has cutely packaged jars of her eggs and displayed them as if for sale in a refrigerated case. The piece comments on how reproduction is no longer a private matter but commercialized and on display.
The best works are by far the most personal ones. Family is such a large and undefinable topic that the works aiming for universal messages just don't resonate. However, "Family" succeeds at expanding our consciousness to accommodate all the things that the term can mean.
The venue is at 258 Main St. in Ridgefield. The show will run through September 4. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $5 ($2 for students and seniors), children under 12 are free, and admission is free for all each Tuesday. Call (203) 438-4519.
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The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art
Vol. 2 Issue 3, May/June 2002 by Risa Needleman, Michele Boos, and Carole Paul
The experience of viewing a new exhibition at an important museum is not necessarily limited to the moment one passes through the entrance. Not unlike a trip, the anticipation of what's to come is often part of the experience. There is a certain expectation, for example, when one forges the "mean streets" south of Houston in Manhattan or south of Market in San Francisco, that something surprising lies ahead. But what about when, instead of traversing streets where pedestrians and traffic jockey for position, you're moving past rolling hills, majestic stone walls and houses with a sense of history.
What kind of experience can you expect in a conservative corner of Connecticut where privilege and proper behavior are often considered "family values?" Well, if your destination is pristine Ridgefield--more specifically, an anomaly, the unorthodox Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, you can expect something absolutely out of the ordinary. (Don't be misled for a moment by outward appearances. The Aldrich is housed in what was once an eighteenth-century historic home.) Surroundings aside, the Aldrich represents anything but The Establishment. It doesn't even have a permanent exhibit. What it does have is an uncanny ability to mount definitive temporary exhibits that alternately may intrigue, provoke, and delight their audience.
A national leader in the exhibition of significant and challenging contemporary art with an emphasis on emerging and mid-career artists, the Aldrich is open to even non-solicited work. The director, Harry Philbrick (who is quite a gem), encourages the artists to try something new. "Don't be scared," he says, "to rip up the floor."
The artists participating in the present show, "Family," on view from May 19 through September 4, 2002, have done exactly this. A landmark exhibition that explores the most central of social institutions: the family, the art is, not surprisingly, cutting edge. Case in point: John Corbin even went so far as to build an extra room attached to the museum for his work "1000 Plateaus: Alliances and Liaisons." Inside this working-class, make-shift house exists a solar system of his family as representational globes. Corbin explained that it is something of a "geographical family tree" and each globe displays the country of origin for each family member. The artist, himself, is of Irish-German descent, which is represented on the floor as a rug. The exhibition is a testament to the artist's diverse response to, and interpretation of, their own family experiences and the unique role that family plays in contemporary society, resulting in a dialogue that is both personal and, at its core, universal. Taken as a whole, the work reveals the constantly shifting nature of family life in the twenty-first century, repeatedly challenging the definition and existence of what constitutes a "typical" or "normal" family, redefining just what does a family mean?
This question is the show's driving force, as well as a hot topic right now in this country. Congress has been lobbying for $400 million to expore what is wrong with the American family and to strenghten the institution of marriage.
What are the implications then for the artist's view on family? To each, family means something different. While all are formed by their family, no two are alike, giving each person something unique. The works at the Aldrich explore these variations--everything from marriage, children, sexuality, and gender roles to social class, aging fertility, and sibling rivalry. The exhibit drives home the idea that there is no such thing as a typical or normal family, providing insight into such contemporary issues as caring for ailing parents, same-sex marriages, adultery, and the joys and tribulations of motherhood.
"Family" includes riveting, cutting-edge art in every medium from painting, sculpture, and works-on-paper, to photography, video, and installation art. The curators of "Family" sought to find somehting relevant in each (and quite possibly, every) medium. The artist Sanford Biggers, who likes to work with objects that he finds outdoors, was able to uproot an old toolshed left on the museum property by founder Larry Aldrich. Placing the shed upside down in a tree behind the museum, Biggers projected, in reverse, old family videos on the inside of the shed.
Tony Tasset, a mastermind of video, is the talend behind "I AM U R ME," a clip of his family eating breakfast while morphing into each other's places at the table. It brings the viewer face to face with the fact that after a while, in every family, the eroding of identity often occurs. "Autobiographies: The Rival" is an interesting and heartbreaking work by Sophie Calle. She has blown up and altered a love letter form her husband to another woman, contributing in yet another way, another part of the spectrum that Family encompasses. There are some depictions too of the warmest aspects of family, one being of true love and the perfect couple. Adrian Piper brings this home to us in "Ashes to Ashes," a photo text work about the story of her parents' battle with lung disease. Shown is a heroic display of love, understanding, compromise, and death in the final years of her parents' lives together. They were, in the viewer's eyes, the perfect couple. The humorous side of family life is also represented. Sean Mellyn's "It's a Beautiful Day" is a sculpture-painting of a toddler with her ideas and imagination bursting forth onto the ceiling and floor from her laughing face. A toddler's uncontrollable energy and enthusiasm can be understood by everyone, and it will even make you smile. Another piece in which humor plays a part is the exhausted but loving mother, Jin-Me Yoon, in her photography work, "Intersection V." On one half, you see the artist collapsed on the floor, consumed by her children who appear on the other side, bathed in spilled milk. The mischief of her children is so wonderful it is clear that she believes it's all worth it.
Allan Wexler uses a combination of architecture and interactive art to display and explore the communication between families at the dinner table. His "Too Large Table" forms relationships between the people seated at this table by pre-arranging the seats. This oddly shaped table's seats are scattered around and built in to configure groups of arguments, conversations, conflicts and all the other types of communication (or non-communication) that may occur when family members are seated together.
The "Chrissy Caviar" has the most modern spin on motherhood and family. Artist Chrissy Conant went through the process of having her eggs harvested and then placed in appealing glass jars with human tubal fluid, silicone, and a label that exploits her sex. The eggs are actually being sold to any buyer, and so is she. Conant has proclaimed herself to be "a product and on the market," just like her eggs. As a single, thirty-something woman, she expends exorbitant amounts of energy on finding a mate, or "Mr. Right." Conant decided that instead of waiting for this mystery man to appear and find her, she was going to put herself out there, and grab him when he walked by.
A unique beginning to a true twenty-first-century family! Linda St. John, a member of the Outside Art Movement, that over the past eight years has brought increasing respectability and recognition to artists who have not been trained formally in visual arts, does not even consider herself an artist. Yet, she is revealed brilliantly with her colorful melange of test and cray-pas illustrations exposing her life in a dysfuntional family. Not officially on the roster of the exhibition, St. John's "Even Dogs Go Home to Die" nevertheless fits in perfectly.On nearly every count, "Family" delivers. The one false note, for a museum that prides itself on showcasing newer and mid-career artists, was the inclusion of the established artists Nan Goldin and Louise Bourgeois, who will undoubtedly lure people to suburban Connecticut.
But the reality is that a show of this wuality and inventiveness is worthy of standing on its own, without the bennefit of established artists. Their works are in no way the stars of the show. Their presence, not their finest works to begin with, is almost an intrusion because of the strength of the exhibition. It is the "other" so-called emerging artists who deserved special recognition. In fact, if one were to think of this group of less established artists as a new "family" of artists, it could be said that "the youngsters" could manage things quite well on their own without the involvement of their elders.
"Family" is a very well conceived show indeed that will give rise to artists who are not, as of yet, household names: Jin-me Yoon, Chrissy Conant, and Sean Mellyn. The success of this exhibiton can be tied to the success of the Aldrich Museum itself, which is attributed, to quote Harry Philbrick, to the fact that they "believe in cookies." It's true.
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The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art
No. 125, May 2002 p. 7 by Sarah Douglas
August Strindberg, who took a dismal view of just about everything, once wrote that family is "the home of all social evil, a charitable institution for comfortable women, an anchorage for house-fathers, and a hell for children." That is certainly one way of looking at it. A wide variety of artistic perspectives on the subject comprise the exhibition of the same title, on view at the Aldrich (19 May - 4 September). It is a wonder that the idea for this exhibition was not hatched earlier, since countless contemporary artists have examined the theme in one way or another. And the subject of family seems particularly tailored to today's artists' penchants for pychological delving. How do artists represent family? This show's team of curators - artists Matthew McCaslin and Claudia Matzko, along with the Aldrich Museum's associate curator Jessica Hough, assistant director Richard Klein, and director Harry Philbrick - have assembled many intriguing interpretations, including Sean Mellyn's painting of a cloyingly sweet kid, Jonathan Seliger's stack of pizza boxes, Nan Goldin's no-holds-barred photographs of motherhood, Chrissy Conant's glass jars containing her own harvested eggs, Mark Wallinger's video of British royalty, and - a real gem - Sophie Calle's blown-up reproduction of her husband's letter to a mistress. Of course, the show would not be complete without that grande dame of surrealism, Louise Bourgeois, whose frightening fabric dolls are locked in a perpetual embrace. The exhibition catalogue contains poems about family, by W.S. DiPiero, Louise Gluck and Sharon Olds, among others.
Disrobing the Family
The Aldrich reveals the familiar and fascinating in blood relationships.
May 30, 2002 by Brita Brundage
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art takes a gamble in its latest exhibition Family, attempting to encompass every nuance of this broad, indefinable topic through the works of 37 living artists. Ultimately, the collection succeeds, not because it is cohesive, but because individual works are so thought provoking and stand-alone that they more than account for Family's blander shortcomings. Specializing, as it does, in contemporary forms of expression, video installations form a significant portion of many Aldrich shows, Family notwithstanding. Sometimes, videos become a highly charged medium and a comment themselves on our screen-focused culture, but too often they feel like imagination cut short.
Doug Hall's top of the stairs 1983 video, "These Are the Rules," becomes nearly maddening as one progresses through the exhibition. Heard long before it is seen, the artists' shrill voice echoes through the gallery: "Try not to be a racist! Obey the laws! Stay on the straight and narrow! Follow the rules!" ad nauseum. The video is meant to illustrate the overwhelming force of patriarchal authority in human relationships, the crippling effect of parental admonishments, but really seems to be Hall's own pathetic therapy session, more annoying than enlightening.
Likewise, Mark Wallinger's 1994 video installation Royal Ascot, one of the exhibits' highlights presumably because it is part of the collection of the British Council, misses its mark. Four TV screens show images of the Queen Mother and her entourage riding circles in carriages, on different days, as evident only by the different colored hats. Meant to show the world's fascination with the royal family, it, instead, highlights the boredom and plastic repetition of their lives.
Laura Dunn's 1999 video "Baby," projected on an upstairs screen, is the first glimpse into the possibility of video as a storytelling and artistic device. In it, the artist discusses the urge to have a child, against all social concerns, as the screen shows black and white images of a toddler wandering outside. Twenty-seven babies are born every 10 seconds, she says in the video, and, on-screen, every ten seconds, another number is shown, 27, 54, 81, etc. Her boyfriend argues against her maternal instincts, separating sex from bearing children, but nothing, not even logic, quells her compulsion. The video is successful in both its simplicity and honesty, balancing population overload with the natural instinct for mothering.
The notion of family in art, however distorted, works best when it displays an intimate and personal piece of the artist, which, in turn, speaks directly to the viewer. For this reason, Alan Berliner's 60 minute 1996 film, "Nobody's Business," is well worth the time investment. Shown in a separate room with wooden benches for viewing, the film combines 8mm home movie footage with interviews Berliner shot with his sister, his Jewish father, Oscar, and his Egyptian mother, Regina. In watching, viewers learn much about the artists' need to understand himself through his relationship with his father. He guides his reluctant father to open up about his emotions.
"Did you love her?" he asks Oscar, as the film shows images of the young, beautiful Regina, leaning over the edge of a boat, waving from the beach.
"Who knows?" the father replied, "that's just what you did in those days."
Now, years after the divorce, the mother has returned to her first love--performing--while the ailing father has retreated into solitude, talking to the doorman to avoid complete loneliness, a sad reflection of the former confident businessman of the home movies.
In delving into the darkest personal regions, like cutting out a malignant tumor to tack it on the wall, artists like Berliner have accomplished the greatest professional act: holding themselves up for painful inspection with no considerations to shame or humiliation. Sophie Calle reaches these heights in her piece, "Autobiographies (The Rival)," done in 1992. Looking at the nearly 6-foot enlarged love letter which Calle's husband had written to his mistress, one feels like a voyeur into the artist's bedroom. The sign above reads in part: "I wanted a love letter but he would not write one to me . . . This became the letter I had never received."
What hurts, especially, in studying the letter, is the poetic beauty of her husband's language. It is not a sexually charged manifesto, as one might expect, but a sweet, loving sonnet to what seems to be his true beloved. "You are a dream that sat down next to me," he writes. "I'm a row of empty seats filled with strangers." Calle has made corrections over the typewritten print, nonsensical changes that highlight her frustration and helplessness.
Robert Melee's 2001 photo collection, housed behind sickly yellow plastic, called "Mommy & Me," is as far from a traditional notion of parent-child relationship as one could imagine. His mother is dressed provocatively in the shots, like an aging stripper, breasts sagging, garter belt folding beneath loose flesh. She wears wigs, her face loaded with clownish makeup, she holds a can of beer and seems to be always cavorting wildly in a bizarre never-ending party while her son, the artist, poses with her affectionately. He seems conditioned to his mother's naked body, sits beside her while she's in the bathtub, cradles her, and through her thick red lips and ghostly painted face, she appears to love him, theatrically and madly.
It would seem that no piece could be as personal as Chrissy Conant's "Chrissy Caviar," 2000-02. After all, she has literally put her own harvested eggs on display in separate caviar jars, complete with cutesy labels and housed in a refrigerated case. While interesting enough to make News of the Weird, and certainly a commentary on the artists' turning forty and waiting to secure a mate, the work feels gimmicky. The whole business (complete with an informative website www.chrissycaviar.com) is so sterilized and absent of feeling, that there simply isn't much to look at.
Sean Mellyn's 2000 work, "It's a Beautiful Day," on the other hand, is a perfect place to land after meandering through the Family exhibit. Like an adrenaline shot after the often subdued colors of the surrounding works, this is wildly bold, a painting of a young girl laughing that literally explodes down the wall and onto the gallery floor in three-dimensional pieces. Shapes turned to creatures climb a ladder out of her head; a milk carton with legs, strange Dr. Seuss-like beings are all in Crayola-bright purple, yellow and red. It is a sure commentary of the limitless possibilities of the unformed child's mind and the boundlessness of imagination unbridled.
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 258 Main St., Ridgefield. Family will run through Sept. 4. Hours: Tues.-Sun., noon-5pm. Admission is $5, $2/students and seniors, free/under 12. Museum is free to the public every Tues. Call 438-4519 or visit www.aldrichart.org for more information.
Brita Brundage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
<link to the article>
May 28, 2002 p.36
Bizzare artist's Eggs-traordinary show was born in her own ovaries!
Opening soon! A new exhibit running May 19 - September 4, 2002, titled Family, at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Conn., features a display of a woman's reproductive eggs.
New York-based artist Chrissy Conant has encased 12 of her ovarian offshoots in little glass jars and named it Chrissy Caviar.
The whole deal is enclosed in a deli-style case, complete with a picture of the artist reclining in an evening gown on a label that reads: "Product of the Chrissy Conant Ovaries...Ingredients: One Egg, Human Tubal Fluid...Caucasian."
The 39-year-old single gal says she hopes that her art expresses the emotional and physical pressures that the mating game and the prospect of reproduction place on women.
"We package ourselves all the time in order to be more attractive," says Conant.
"We go to the gym, we spend hundreds of dollars on make-up, hair, the right pair of shoes, etc."
Conant understands that some might consider her project bizarre and controversial. However, her purpose is not to offend anyone. "I am not interested in eliciting any specific response, positive or negative," she says. "Both are fine with me. I'm just looking for a reaction, I wanted to create something thought-provoking."
She's coy about a price. "This will be set," says Conant, "according to an emerging artist's career who's actively seeking to get into serious collections."
But she confirms it will be a lot more than regular caviar. After all, as she says: "Chrissy Caviar has got to be the ultimate perishable consumable."
Aldrich "Family" exhibit offers fresh look at age-old institution
May 16, 2002 by Kristan Zimmer
Happy or sad, rich or poor, large or small, it defines us, though we sometimes might not want to admit it. It is there when we need it and sometimes when we don't. Nonetheless, it is a part of us. Family is a concept as ancient and expansive as time itself but its definition has evolved over the years, just as the people, technology and society that mold it.
From May 19 to Sept. 4 the Aldrich Museum will display "Family," its largest exhibit since "Faith" several years ago. It will feature the work of 37 living artists who embark on an exploration of that age old instition with a new age twist, addressing the difficulties and joys of family life in the 21st Century.
It's a topic that is always evolving and people haven't spent time to that degree on addressing it," said public relations coordinator Amy Grabowski. "We all kind of take it for granted because it's such a huge universal topic."
Visitors to the museum will see artistic works, from sculptures and paintings to videos and art installations, that reflect many of the personal experiences of the artists themselves.
One that reflects an artist's attempt to grapple with her own conflicts about family is Chrissy Conant's Chrissy Caviar. Ms. Conant's struggle to find the perfect mate to father her children is reflected in her piece made of 12 glass jars containing her harvested eggs packaged to look like caviar. It serves as an artistic sculpture reflecting her emotions as a single woman fearful of time getting the better of her, as well as an active marketing tool to connect with a mate.
Outside the museum, artist Sanford Biggers constructed a tree house in the museum sculpture garden made of found objects. Bottles hang from the outside reflecting the old southern superstition that they serve as protection for the family inside. Inside the tree house viewers can watch Mr. Biggers1 family videos filmed by his father. They are meant to revere his ancestors and loved ones and represent the "blissful freedom" of childhood.
Not all families are blissful, though. Sophie Calle can vouch for that. Her piece titled Autobiographies (The Rival) is an oversized replica of a letter from her husband to his mistress, exemplifying the pains of a marriage in crisis.
But while some marriages fall apart, others can never be, as shown by Patricia Cronin's sculpture titled Memorial to A Marriage. Inspired by the mortuary sculptures of the 18th and 19th Centuries, this depiction of a lesbian couple sleeping in a loving embrace is meant to make official her own relationship with her partner, though she may never marry in life.
Ms. Grabowski said many of the pieces are very personal and the exhibition should have something for everyone. "I think everyone will react to it in different ways and find a connection with themselves," said Ms. Grabowski. "The exhibition has a very universal theme but at the same time a very personal one."
In a town like Ridgefield where family is so overtly important in many people's lives, Ms. Grabowski said the timing and location is well suited. "Family is always timely and it is always the cornerstone of communities like these," said Ms. Grabowski. She said the Aldrich understands how important education and family is to many people in the community and reflects that through their many programs. Likewise, although Ridgefield seems like a town full of homogeneous families sheltered by prosperity and peace, the community has displayed a great appreciation for the variety of ideas and concepts the museum has displayed through its art. This exhibition is an extension of that understanding.
"It seems like the people of Ridgefield don't appear to be very diverse but they are always so open to contemporary art," said Ms. Grabowski. Many of the pieces display some difficult and poignant issues about family relationships. "I think a lot of pieces will ruffle some feathers, but it creates a dialogue among people of Ridgefield, Fairfield County and the art world."
Family friendly guide
For those who feel ruffled feathers aren't appropriate for little ducklings, the museum will also provide a "Family Friendly" guide to the exhibition that will recommend which rooms and art pieces are appropriate for families with young children.
"It's important to share all these different themes with your own family. I think everybody realizes that they are not normal but it's nice to see that other people are a little quirky too," said Ms. Grabowski, who said she feels curators are doing an excellent job in deciding each piece1s placement in the exhibit while keeping artistic themes and family values in mind. She said this exhibit is very special because the combined experiences of the artists who design the art, the curators who chose and place the art and the audience who views the art contribute to the overall effect of the exhibit.
"I feel almost everybody can identify and connect their own families with the many works in the exhibition," said Ms. Grabowski. "Even though this exhibition is so sweeping it is so tiny compared to what family is."
The Aldrich Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5. Adult admission is $5, student and senior admission is $2. Members and children under 12 are admitted free. The museum is free to the public every Tuesday.
For more information call 438-4519 or visit its Web site at www.aldrichart.org.
Dagens Nyheter, Sweden
Human Caviar For Sale
April 22, 2002 by Annika Persson
Thirteen choice woman's eggs in fallopian fluid are for sale. They are being sold in glass caviar jars under the Chrissy Caviar brand. The label's similarity to Beluga caviar jars is not by chance.
"I am caviar and my eggs are on the market," says Manhattan-based artist and 39 year old single woman Chrissy Conant to Dansk Politiken.
It was after a meal in a restaurant with a friend that Conant finally got fed up with the plight of her unused eggs and the hunt for Mr. Right. She asked to have the Beluga jar from their meal to take home and proceeded to have a bunch of her own eggs removed to put on public display, soon to be at the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut.
"It will also serve as a sort of personal ad," says Chrissy Conant.
With the work, Conant wants to comment on the physical and emotional situation in which 30-something single women find themselves.
The luxurious jars will be shown together with a video that follows the process from the design of the label, through the hormone therapy to the eventual removal of the eggs. The show "Family" opens on May 19th, 2002.
<link to the article>
The Independent, Great Britain
Life, etc. Life stories: How do you like your eggs?
April 14, 2002 by Elizabeth Heathcote
The business of attracting a suitor is rarely taken lightly. In different cultures at different times, desirable men have been baited with cattle, kohl, body art, child-bearing hips, written guarantees of a lunatic-free genetic history and - simplest of all - straight cash. But in New York 2002, things have reached a new level. Potential husbands of 39-year-old Chrissy Conant are invited to inspect her eggs, perhaps purchase a jar of them, and, if the fancy takes them, to sample them on toast.
OK, this is not just about finding a boyfriend - Chrissy Conant is an artist and this is her latest project. "I got the idea when I was served some caviar at a lunch," she says. "There was so much ritual around this little jar - it's so expensive for what you get, one of the ultimate commodities.
"I took the jar back to my studio and I thought about the way women like me - yet to find a husband or have a child - put ourselves on the market. We buy expensive clothes, wear expensive make-up, have $300 hairdos, and I thought 'I feel like caviar in a jar.' So I decided to put myself into the jar."
She proposed to harvest some of her eggs so they could be potted, but it took her two years to achieve this. Having researched the risks and found them acceptable ("I was just having the same treatment as women who have fertility treatment, or donate eggs"), she had to find a doctor prepared to help. She was turned away by several who deemed her project too controversial before she found the "right one" who said "it's your body do what you want with it."
She was supplied with fertility drugs, which she had to inject for a month. "There was a definite physical change to my body," she says. "My belly got larger - there was lots going on in there. Towards the end I felt more delicate, as though I was walking around with a basket of raw eggs I had to protect." Thirteen eggs were then harvested from her body, by guiding a needle through her vagina, under local anaesthetic.
She videoed the month-long process and the film will be exhibited along with the jars of Chrissy Caviar. Labelled with an image of Chrissy reclining in eveningwear, each contains just one egg, suspended in a salty solution in an anaerobic environment and refrigerated - just like the sturgeon variety. "If the purchaser wants to, they can take it home and put it in the fridge and keep it like this," she says. "The eggs are no longer viable for procreation, but I have no objection if the purchaser wants to pop open the jar and eat it..."
She's coy about a price - this will be set, she says, "according to an emerging artist's career who's actively seeking to get into serious collections" - but she confirms it will be a lot more than caviar. After all, as she says, "This has to be the ultimate perishable consumable."
"Chrissy Caviar" will be shown at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Connecticut in May.
The Politiken, Denmark
Installation: The Artist's Own Caviar
April 14, 2002 p.4 by Kim Rathcke Jensen
Caviar as art. A 39 year-old artist has bottled her own eggs and will exhibit them next month as an art installation in the USA. She also considers the caviar as a product, to be similar to a personal ad.
www.chrissycaviar.com , www.aldrichart.org
Forget about regular caviar! These jars contain neither sturgeon nor lumpsucker caviar: they contain the eggs of a woman. The American artist Chrissy Conant has created the installation with 12 refrigerated jars containing the unique caviar. Each jar contains a small tube in which one of her own eggs is encapsulated. The project is called "Chrissy Caviar Æ."
Chrissy Conant states that the piece of art is a commentary on the physical and emotional situation a single, modern woman in her 30's is in: The right partner has not been found yet, and there is pressure on the woman to reproduce:
"It is an attempt to bring my feelings out and express them in a way that lets me create a piece of art based on my own situation: a 39 year-old woman who is still single and available, looking for a partner and hoping to find the right man," says Chrissy Conant who lives in Manhattan in New York.
At the same time, the piece of art is similar to a personal ad for Chrissy Conant: "It is a way of saying 'Look at me.' Singles market themselves constantly. That is part of the game. As Jerry Seinfeld said in one of his shows: 'A date is an all-night job interview.' We market ourselves and aim at our target - we exercise, wear fashionable clothes and make-up, spend lots of money on hairdos and so on," says Chrissy Conant who among other things holds a BA in Art History and an MFA in Computer Art.
Ms. Conant conceived this idea two years ago. One of her good friends treated her to dinner and asked her to order whatever she fancied: "So we order caviar. The waiter comes over to our table and presents the caviar in a very ritualized way by opening the jar with his white cloth over his arm and making a big deal out of placing the jar on the table in the right way - so much attention to one little jar," says Chrissy Conant.
That made her think about the caviar and how certain rituals, decadence, money and power are associated with it.
"I asked the waiter if I could have the empty jar, and brought it back to my studio. I sat down in the chair in front of my desk. I looked at the jar. I thought about my own situation. Being single, and 'why don't I have a boyfriend, why don't I have any children,' and so on. Suddenly I got inspired. I am caviar. My eggs are on the market, I want to put myself into that jar and offer myself that way," says Chrissy Conant.
She developed the idea for a while, and finally she got started on the project. While being monitored by a doctor, she started a hormone treatment that a month later made her hyper-ovulate. Instead of one egg as usual, 13 eggs matured. The doctor "harvested" the eggs by inserting a type of needle into the ovaries and removed them by suction.
"Yes, it was painful. Not unbearably so, but at times very uncomfortable. There was both physical pain and even emotional pain. When the procedure was over, I was very depressed and sad - each of these tubes contained my eggs that would never become little babies," says Chrissy Conant.
DOES NOT WANT TO OFFEND ANYONE
Ms. Conant understands that some might consider her project to be somewhat bizarre and grotesque. However, her purpose is not to offend anyone:
"I am not interested in eliciting any specific response, neither a negative nor a positive one. Both are fine with me. I just want some kind of reaction. I want to create something thought-provoking for the situation women in their 30's are in. And I hope to get some response from a lot of nice guys," says Ms. Conant. The entire process - from the design of the labels to the egg extraction - has been videotaped, and Ms. Conant is currently editing the tape which is shown next to the exhibition case containing the caviar jars. The entire installation known as "Chrissy CaviarÆ" can be seen at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Connecticut, and forms part of the museum exhibit "Family" that opens on May 19.
Ms. Conant hopes that her project will be shown at several museums and galleries, and that "Chrissy CaviarÆ" will interest serious art collectors - each jar is for sale. The demand determines the price.
<link to the article>
News of the Wierd (syndicated)
Unmarried Artist Uses Her Own Eggs in Exhibit
April 14, 2002 by Chuck Shepherd
New York artist Chrissy Conant, 39, will display 13 of her reproductive eggs, floating in silicone, at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Conn., in May, in an exhibit addressing the pressures that women feel when their biological clocks are ticking down.
Conant said in an interview that, in fact, she was actively seeking a man: "Consider me for consumption and consider my eggs, because I think they're pretty good."
<link to the article>
Jinling Evening Post, China
I FELT LIKE I'D A BASKET OF EGGS INSIDE MY BODY.
March 31, 2002
In May 2002, 30 years old artist Chrissy Conant display 13 of her reproductive eggs in an art exhibition called "Desire For Family" at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Each egg was encased in a tiny tube floating in silicone. The jars will be displayed in a deli-type case. The audience will found themselves viewing the 13 test tube which filled with liquid. On top of each tube, there is a printed label with half naked Chrissy holding a glowing egg. Almost the same size of a tag, the label reads "Product of the Chrissy Conant Ovaries."
In a public interview on 29th of May, the organizer of the exhibition claims : "The Chrissy Caviar project is a way to address the emotional and physical pressures that the prospect of reproduction places on women in their late thirties. Moreover, she hopes the artwork could deliver the message "I'm still a single woman, come and get me!" to all the American bachelor. The curator thinks this will be a more effective platform than a personal ad on the radio.
Certainly, there will be people think that showing one's reproductive eggs to the public is an act of rudeness. In fact, Conant and the curator of the show are well aware of this issue.
"The work can feel very crass initially because it shows what's inside of a woman's womb in front of the naked eye." said Jessica Hough, assistant curator of "Family". "To an extent the image of Chrissy reclining in this evening gown printed on the label is like she is trying to sell her body or sell herself." "To avoid the misleading of those image, we won't put the label on every test tube. Instead, it will only be stick on every other one."
USING THE EXHIBITION AS A PERSONAL MARRIAGE SEARCH?
Beside Conant, there were others famous and seasoned artists showing their works in the "Desire For Family" exhibition. Among them, 91-year-old Louise Bourgeois who created avant-garde art pieces for over 60 years, will exhibit her embracing figures which made of stuffed terry cloth. Young artist such as Jonathan Seliger has created a sculpture of five pizza boxes titled "For a Family."
Actually, Conant expects a strong and dynamic respond from the audience. The last thing she wants to see is audience standing indifferent in front of her eggs. "I would love to have some protest and criticizes at the exhibition. Just in case, I'm arriving with two bodyguards," Conant said.
According to Conant, the reason she is showing her eggs in the exhibition is more than trying to shock the public. Because she is nearly 40s and is still a single, a strong desire of the opposite sex and loneliness make her want to start a complete family. Through her artwork, she wants to tell people that she is just a single who wants to be in love with someone, get married and have children.
Creating the artwork has been an outlet for her loneliness, but she also hopes the show will provoke people to consider the conflicts of a women at her age face if they want to have children. Conant claims: If there is anyone out there who thinks the exhibition is a search for marriage or as an personal ad, that will be O.K. too.
DOCUMENTING THE PROCESS OF THE OPERATION.
Conant is well prepared for the procedure ovulation and egg deposition for the exhibition at this moment. The process included injection and use of medications to stimulate her body to produce one or more eggs at a time. After the treatment, Conant will be able to ovulate 13 eggs in one cycle instead of one in a month with the normal physical condition. "I felt like I'd a whole basket of eggs inside my body and I have to walk with caution." she told the journalist.
After the anesthetize, doctor will guide a needle through the vagina and into her follicles, removing the eggs by suction. The doctor removed eight eggs from her right ovary and five from the left.
A 15-minute documentary showing Conant administering her injections as well as the harvesting process, called "Making Chrissy Caviar," will accompany the caviar display.
BEAUTIFUL LADY SHOWING HER EGGS IN SEARCH FOR MARRIAGE
March 31, 2002
In May 2002, 30 years old artist Chrissy Conant display 13 of her reproductive eggs in an art exhibition called "Desire For Family" at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Also, a 15-minute documentary showing Conant administering her injections as well as the harvesting process, called "Making Chrissy Caviar," will accompany the caviar display.
Each egg was encased in a tiny tube floating in silicone. On top of each tube, there is a printed label with half naked Chrissy holding a glowing egg. According to Conant, the reason she is showing her eggs in the exhibition is more than trying to shock the public. But because she is nearly 40s and is still a single. A strong desire of the opposite sex and loneliness make her want to start a complete family. Through her artwork, she wants to tell people she is just a single who wants to be in love with someone, get married and have children. Conant claims: If there is anyone out there who thinks the exhibition is a search for marriage or as a personal ad, that will be O.K. too.
Conant is well prepared for the procedure ovulation and egg deposition for the exhibition at this moment. The process included injection and use of medications to stimulate her body to produce one or more eggs at a time. After the treatment, Conant will be able to ovulate 13 eggs in one cycle instead of one in a month with the normal physical condition. "I felt like I'd a whole basket of eggs inside my body and I've to walk with caution." she told the journalist.
Seeking Art-Loving Sperm
March 29, 2002 by Kristen Philipkoski
In what may be the most elaborate personal ad ever, a New York artist is offering caviar to prospective suitors.
This is not just any caviar, it's made from Chrissy Conant's very own eggs. "Product of the Chrissy Conant ovaries," the label reads. "Ingredients: one egg, human tubal fluid. Caucasian." Calories are not noted.
Conant will display 13 of her reproductive eggs, each individually encased in a glass jar, as part of an art exhibition called Family at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in May.
Each egg will be encased in a tiny tube floating in silicone. The jars will be displayed in a deli-type case.
The Chrissy Caviar project is a way to address the emotional and physical pressures that the prospect of reproduction places on women in their late thirties. And to boot, she hopes it's a more effective platform for a personal ad than the Village Voice.
"Doing this in such a bizarre, attention-getting manner is my way of saying 'Is there anybody out there who might be interested?'" Conant said in a recent interview. "Consider me for consumption and consider my eggs, because I think they're pretty good."
Human caviar might seem, in a word, gross to some people, a fact of which Conant and the curator of the show are well aware.
"The work can feel very crass initially because it's so honest," said Jessica Hough, assistant curator of Family. "To an extent the image (on the label) of Chrissy reclining in this evening gown is like is she is trying to sell her body or sell herself. But it can alternately be seen as a calculated and clever marketing strategy."
The Family exhibition will include works by seasoned artists such as 91-year-old Louise Bourgeois, as well as newer artists like Jonathan Seliger, who created a sculpture of five pizza boxes titled "For a Family."
Strong reactions are exactly what Conant's looking for. Her biggest disappointment would be if someone were indifferent to her caviar.
"I would love to have a protest at the opening. Just in case, I'm arriving with two bodyguards," she said.
But her intention is not specifically to be gross, or shocking. Conant is single and she recently turned 39, provoking intense thought about her desire to start a family.
Creating the work has been a catharsis for Conant, but she also hopes the show will provoke people to consider the conflicts women at this age face if they want to have children.
"Sometimes women are hesitant to show that this is a concern for us," Conant said. "We don't want to appear desperate, but at the same time, it's OK to want to get married and have a family."
Some feminists may take issue with Conant's apparent attempt to sell herself -- literally.
"It's maybe a sign of the times, and a discouraging one at that, to find that some people are attracted to commodifying their body parts," said Judy Norsigian, executive director and co-founder of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, and co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century.
Conant believes the courting process is inherently one that revolves around a sort of marketing and advertising.
"In a literal sense that's what fashion is all about, this is why we go shopping, why we wear make up -- we do commodify ourselves," Conant said. "It's not a bad thing."
She'll also make the exhibit available to collectors, who can purchase one of the jars, various limited addition prints derived from the project, and a limited edition of 1,000 floaty pens in which an egg drops from an ovary into a jar.
The Chrissy Caviar project took a level of commitment not required for many other art pieces. Conant had to inject herself with drugs that made her hyper-ovulate. She produced 13 eggs in one cycle rather than just one.
"I felt like I was walking around with a basket of eggs in my body that I had to protect," she said.
Doctors then "harvested" her eggs by guiding a needle through the vagina and into her follicles, removing the eggs by suction, under local anesthesia.
The doctors removed eight eggs from her right ovary and five from the left. She was relieved to hear from the doctors that she had "young" ovaries.
A 15-minute documentary showing Conant administering her injections as well as the harvesting process, called "Making Chrissy Caviar," will accompany the caviar display.
The Chrissy Caviar project may be avant-garde, but Conant is hoping for a decidedly old-fashioned outcome.
"Part of what I'm doing here is based on a personal reason to use my genes as a commodity," she said, "but in order to procreate in a traditional way with a husband and a family, in that order."
<link to the article>
Human Caviar. Slurp.
March, 2002 p. 54 by Esther Haynes
About a year ago, New York artist Chrissy Conant ordered caviar during a date. It got her thinking. "Suddenly, I realized how I was putting myself on the market for consumption, to procreate and carry on the species. And I made this connection between my eggs and caviar eggs. I thought, "I'll put myself in jar and offer myself up." So, right now she's having a dozen of her eggs "harvested." Then she'll put each one in a jar filled with silicone (see prototype below), and label the jars Chrissy Caviar and put them on display at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Conn., in May. Of course, women's eggs are microscopic, but you'll be able to see the pink human tubal fluid surrounding each egg. The display will also be refrigerated. "Caviar is a perishable consumable," she says. "When eggs are removed from the ovaries, they're only 'good' for 48 hours. But if some collector chooses to open up this jar and put its contents onto a cracker and eat it, then great." Anyone hungry?