Opening reception for the new Firehouse Gallery exhibit last night, just in time for Halloween (no coincidence). Medicine & Mortality is up and running and ready to unsettle the imagination.
Curator Chris Thompson described the three-artist show as a response to “a society simultaneously obsessed with health care and health intervention, and yet uneasy about it.” With materials including used stitches (the remains of a real injury), x-rays, medical tools, and ‘excised flesh in encaustic wax’, the art in Medicine & Mortality actually may do more to further the unease than alleviate it.
The exhibit is constructed equally around the physical objects of routine medicine (real and fantastic) and the psychological effects of it. Who hasn’t had stitches, seen an x-ray of their own insides, or gazed with some apprehension at the gleaming row of mysterious tools on a dental tray? Revisiting them in an artistic context can be uncomfortable.
Linda E. Jones described a time in her artistic process when she found herself actively accumulating medical detritus. She wasn’t sure why at the time, but she allowed herself to pursue the collection and eventually determined the results would become part of a “transformation of object” project. Her art, she said, attempts to go beyond physical boundaries to measure the unseen, “everyone’s that much stronger for the things they’ve gone through.”
Over on the other side of the gallery, sculptors Nathaniel Price and Sasanqua Price share a room filled with large amorphous beeswax forms, suspended in shiny silver fittings and brackets reminiscent of medical clamps, braces, and prosthetics. It definitely has a clinical feel, as if the pieces are a preserved display of the miniature models of body parts physicians use for illustrating diagnoses. I didn’t really comprehend Sasanqua’s involved explanation of her art as an extension (or expression?) of ancient reliquaries, except to understand that may be one of the inspirations behind her works.
Nathaniel Price’s pieces weren’t accessible because the gallery was so congested. I’ll have to get back there soon since it wasn’t possible to see a lot of the artwork, or spend much time with the works. But what I did see was enough to assure I’ll return soon…call it morbid curiosity.
Medicine & Mortality is on exhibit through December 12th at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery on Church Street.