September 19 – December 12
Herron School of Art + Design
Stuff(ed) features a selection of contemporary artists – Jessica Dance, David Gabbard, and Natalie Baxter – using soft sculpture to explore issues around consumer culture, social conventions, and artistic tradition. This exhibition will examine the playful, subversive power of sculpted fabric to transform and reimagine mass-market commodities and bric-a-brac from everyday life.
Farah Al Qasimi, Natalie Baxter, Deborah Castillo, Kristina Davis, Dynasty Handbag,
Jesse Harrod, INNER COURSE (Rya Kleinpeter and Tora López),
Lady Parts Justice League’s Vagical Mystery Tour, Jen Liu, Rachel Mason, Jan Mun,
Luis Mejico, Madhini Nirmal, Kameelah Janan Rasheed,
Katherine Simóne Reynolds, Andréa Stanislav
On January 10, 2017, CODEPINK activist Desiree Fairooz was arrested and later convicted for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Senate confirmation hearing. As Senator Richard Shelby commended Sessions for his record of “treating all Americans equally under the law,” Fairooz let out a quick, sharp cackle before being escorted from the courtroom and arrested for “disorderly and disruptive” behavior.
Fairooz’s reflexive outburst is just one scenario conveying the transgressive potential of laughter to threaten authority, as power and control are briefly shifted and destabilized. In an increasingly tense political landscape, laughing is an everyday gesture capable of unsettling norms, subverting power, and challenging dominant systems. Laugh Backexamines the diverse cultural production of self-identifying women who engage the defiant possibilities of humor, satire, and the absurd as subversive tools for cultural change.
The artists in Laugh Back use humor to create a symbolic space for transformation in which structures of power and repression are recognized and confronted. Focusing specifically on the practices of self-identifying women, the exhibition reframes the trope of humorless feminist resistance by emphasizing deployments of the absurd that disrupt presumed stable discourses. The works in the exhibition speak directly to the contemporary sociopolitical climate, examining race, gender, labor, and politics from multicultural perspectives to uncover a current, uniquely feminist brand of humor that is an increasingly threatened and threatening vehicle to speak truth to power. Employing diverse comedic genres, these artists use humor as a means to upset, if only for a visceral moment, established ways of being.
MARCH 3 - APRIL 1, 2018
opening reception: Saturday March 3, 2018 from 6-9pm
The Elijah Wheat Showroom presents artist Natalie Baxter: TrollLolLol. The show's title references cruelly worded and deliberately accusatory commentary found on the Internet that incites outrage for the victim and creates a twisted humor from the perpetrator. Natalie’s educational story begins with her grandmother’s training working with thread & needle. Her elaborate sewing techniques are remembered to fabricate contemporary non-functional representational objects, like pistols & assault rifles. Baxter “strives to create approachable, soft sculpture work as an accessible entry point to unpack issues that have become points of division in today’s landscape.”
Since her matriarchal and institutional instruction, she has worked with fiber to create the Warm Gun Series “examining the United States’ issues of gun violence and masculinity through a collection of colorfully quilted, droopy caricatures of assault weapons, bringing ‘macho’ objects into a traditionally feminine [craft] sphere and questioning their potency.” Baxter received thoughtful and charged online reviews of her exhibitions as well as negative. Baxter and her work were the focus of an article on Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, in which she received numerous angry and hateful words from trolls. In response, from these comments, she fastidiously fabricated appliqué banners with the derogatory phrases, in image of the protest signs of the suffragettes.
The AltCaps series then reclaims “comments directed at [her] about gender, sexuality, and mental state, however, [she has] a hard time believing that this anxiety and aggression all stems from making a collection of stuffed pillow guns.” She decided to re-live these comments from the internet and stitch them onto a permanent presentation because “sadly, [it is] a part of the fabric that makes up the world we live in today and instead of shrug it off, [Baxter] feels it’s vital that we confront it.”
Both series of work, Warm Gun & AltCapswill be conjoined as the installation of the banners circumvents on the walls the suspended, limp guns from the center of the gallery. Viewers are enticed to travel through the exhibition with the playful, interactive and brightly colored fiber installation as the toxicity of explicit words of hate go flaccid and provoke comebacks.
Natalie Baxter (b. 1985, Kentucky) received her MFA from the University of Kentucky in 2012 and her BA in Fine Art from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN in 2007. Her work has been exhibited recently at Mulherin (New York), Spring/Break Art Fair (New York), Alison Milne Gallery (Toronto, ON), Institute 193 (Lexington, KY), In Ersten (Vienna, Austria), and The Cornell Art Museum (DelRay Beach, FL). Baxter’s work has been featured in Vice’s The Creator’s Project, Hyperallergic, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, W Magazine, The London Observer and The New York Times. Baxter has been an artist in residence at The Wassaic Project and a fellowship recipient at the Vermont Studio Center. She currently works in Brooklyn, NY.
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