13 Jan 2011

Ok, I Surrender.

by Maureen Lovett

These artists at WVTF continue to leave an impression on us. Friday night, we snagged some cheese and wine and perused Rachel Callahan’s “Surrender Series.”

Rachel is currently a fifth year Aunspaugh Fellow at the University of Virginia.

When we saw her thesis show last spring, Rachel had constructed a bed surrounded by wallpaper, prints, and lace that were full of domestic insanity. Hearing that these current works on paper were derived from original documents (some from eBay, some from your usual collection of thrift store finds), we thought that this series might have a similar mood– Sylvia Plath goes gallery exhibit.

However, Ms. Plath was nowhere to be found.

Though the persona that haunts most of “The Surrender Series” is obviously very “ladylike”– consumed by ideas of performance and expectation– all this crazy control seems to have resulted in a type of handing over.

These found (and now appropriated) “documents were chosen because they outline the proper way to behave, more specifically how to behave like a proper woman,” according to the artist. This girl cared a lot about grades, marriage, and the rules. “They are the ghostly remnants of a past that refuses to be done with.”

However, in its respective order and muted hues, the collective work is subtly peaceful, seeming to breathe an odd sigh of relief. The grades have been dealt with. Map-like works mark a course towards sanity. A few stark white, embroidered flags flank the largest piece in the show, “Martha and Grace,” and summon a declaration of military surrender– “I’m a woman. Show me some mercy.”

Something is still a little off. The exhibit isn’t exactly peaceful, yet the feminine persona seems to be reaching out for a truce: “I’ll give you all this control, if you’ll just let me be– let me be at home, out at sea, with my friends, and dressed as I please.”

To see the work throughout January, contact Maureen for an appointment at artsdirector [at] newcityarts.org.

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