October 8, 2010

Caitlin Peluffo, Nailed

Review by Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata

Caitlin Peluffo, Nailed (Video Still)
    Currently on view in EastOne Gallery is recent work by second year Pratt MFA candidate Caitlin Peluffo. Peluffo’s work at Pratt falls predominantly under the vague label of New Forms, which doesn’t serve to explain the thoughtful collision of photography, performance, and video that comprises Nailed, the featured piece in this solo exhibition.

    Nailed, 2010, duration 10:56, consists of a single channel video in which a nude Peluffo performs grueling repetitions of pushups atop a literal bed of nails. The viewer is forced into a tight, static viewpoint from the level of the nail’s heads, waiting for the artist’s vulnerable body to repeatedly intervene with the setup. The rhythmic audio, of Peluffo’s breathing and the ambient sound of physical exertion, provides a claustrophobic soundtrack for a claustrophobic interaction.

    The piece continues in the interior space of the gallery with a series of oversized digital photographic prints of the artist’s body. Each successive image depicts the effect of the nails on her skin, and what could easily be perceived as small, inconsequential indentations in her chest from the pressure of her bodyweight falling on the nails ready clearly as deepening wounds as the series progresses. The images are larger than life, looming over the viewer, and Peluffo has posed herself mockingly as any given classical sculpture praising the silent, impotent female form – arms inactive, hip cocked coyly in some, headless, and all lovely and demure in contrast with the brutal display of force, power, and pain the viewer knows has occurred prior to this sarcastic display of naïve feminine beauty.

    Peluffo clearly draws inspiration from feminist performance art from the 1970s, using her body as a medium with which to discuss and subvert the archetypes of femininity and socially dictated gender specifics. The artist names two projects as particularly related to her process in Nailed: Hannah Wilke’s Starification Object Series, 1974, and Eleanor Antin’s CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture, 1972. Wilke’s piece involved the artist placing sculptural pieces of gum, some chewed by audience members, as both an odd nod to tribal scarification and a questioning of American ideals of female beauty and glamour. Antin’s piece discussed feminine beauty concepts by photographically documenting a drastic weight loss process over 36 days.
   
    Where Peluffo’s work expands on these concepts is through the introduction of athleticism, and what it means to be a physically powerful woman in a society that continues to define female beauty in an extremely narrow way. In an era when prominent female media figures are borderline anorexic and surgically enhanced, Peluffo seems to be stating that she is a woman who exists, yet is denied its rightful place in the scope of female beauty. Nailed discusses, like much of Peluffo’s work on display, an “anomaly” whose positive traits our society could easily view as too dangerously male or strong and dismiss altogether as outside of femininity.
Caitlin Peluffo, Nailed (Photographs)

    Peluffo stated that her work questions whether a physically strong woman, the matured rendering of the “tomboy” figure, is allowed to be both feminine and athletically potent, or if she must choose between being strong and being desired. This dilemma is on view in EastOne through October 29.


This exhibition is part of the Student Exhibition Spaces Program coordinated by the Center for Career and Professional Development at Pratt Institute.  All current students can submit work for inclusion in future exhibitions by emailing ccpdprograms@gmail.com for more information.

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