The Groin, Foods, and More
Bruises and Pride at Hedreen Gallery
Courtesy of the artist
The rug pulled out from underneath; you lie on the floor is a small show of a handful of artworks at the Hedreen Gallery at Seattle University, and you can just enjoy it as such, but it is not only that. It is also a series of writings collected in a zine printed on sunny yellow paper. These writings are like extra lights on the objects in the gallery; they don't tell you what to see but make things visible in different ways.
For instance, Shaw Osha's visual contribution in the gallery is a spray-painted landscape based on a blurry, rainy photograph she took while commuting on I-5 up to Seattle from Olympia. The view is cut in half. She made the large painting—like a view through a windshield—then sliced it down the middle into two vertical paintings, wedging between them an unframed photograph of an iridescent oil spill on a slick street. What the oil particles do is the same as what the tiny dots of spray paint do—separate and join at the same time. The stereovisual of the rainy freeway has likewise been split apart, but you put it back together mentally even though there's this wet snapshot stuck in the middle like a groin.
You might look at this differently after you read, on the sunny yellow paper, the phrase "Wednesday of gender" by poet Melanie Noel, suggesting a hump-day gender (itself suggesting new kinds of humping), a groin between definitions of maleness and femaleness. Also on the paper: oblique reference to the reductive categorizing that Elles, Seattle Art Museum's all-women spectacle this season, brings to a whole range of uncategorizable artists and artworks. The rug pulled out from underneath; you lie on the floor is about uncategorizability in general as demonstrated in art and writing. There's another story from the yellow paper about D. W. Burnam falling in love with a painting in an art museum, but later being able to find nothing about it written in English, and having to love it that legally blind way.
Back in the gallery again, take Dahlia Elsayed's video Foods, a montage of moments in which she sits in front of the camera as if in a confessional booth and says what she wants to eat. "I want french fries." "I want a crab cake." "I want nuts." It shouldn't be so loaded to watch a woman say what she wants to eat—or maybe that's just me, the piece eliciting another confession—but she seems pathetic and powerful at the same time, like Wynne Greenwood's Pink Fabric Basket sculpture on the floor nearby. Its slumped walls are woven from a pink American Apparel bag that Greenwood dyed. It looks bruised, proud. On the yellow paper is an excerpt from Montaigne that could be related to Greenwood's basket and Elsayed's cornucopian chanting, "How we cry and laugh for the same thing." Montaigne explains that you will weep over the corpse of the enemy you killed. And that a man looking lovingly at his wife is not being false when later he looks at her with disdain. There's agnosticism in this art and these writings, the ongoing but final answer "maybe." To what end?
Hanneline Rogeberg's two paintings are of scrotums. They're close-ups, washy and scraped, "walls" of paint as she refers to them. They are inspired, bizarrely, by becoming a mother, she writes, with titles that refer to Balzac's story "The Unknown Masterpiece," in which an artist burns everything and dies after he fails to make his pretty nude model look like anything but a wall of paint to his viewers. Rogeberg likens the character's failure to impotence, but Rogeberg likes it, adopts it. The juicy closeness of the paintings makes you want to look and look. You never see the balls quite clearly, but you know they're balls. If you have to choose, and this is a proposition about feminism and gender, too, it's better to be seen than deciphered.