October 31, 2011

Sheena Dowling, "Inside Out" Solo Show in the Fishbowl Gallery

Review by Sophie Buonomo, History of Art and Design Graduate Student (2013)

 "Skin", 2010-2011, panty hose
Sheena Dowling’s Inside Out, on view now in the Fishbowl Gallery, is a work of grotesque beauty. Dowling twists, stretches, and sews found materials, such as nylons, ribbon and lace into objects that are at once abstract and deeply associative. These objects have an implied narrative – their stains and tears tell the story of human contact - and in most minds, an irrevocably female connection.

Dowling intends to question these associations, and her work explores the ambiguity of gender. When the nylons are sewn together, they create both phallic and leg-like shapes flowing in and out of each other, leading the viewer to a contemplation of the rigidity of gender construct. This ambiguity leads Dowling to describe her work as feminine, but not necessarily feminist. Bodily references - both male and female - play a large part in Inside Out. The stuffed and sewn nylons, contorted into tube-like shapes, resemble intestines and phalluses, while the stretched nylons are markedly skin-like. These associations are born out by the material, which has touched the most intimate parts of the body, only to be discarded. This refuse has absorbed not only the energy of the original owner, but of Dowling herself through the movement of her hand.
"Protection", 2011, panty hose,
 ribbon, fabric and wire

She describes the influence of Oceanic art, noting that ritual objects are often wrapped in fabric to give them unearthly power. She sees her stitching as an act of wrapping as well as a meditative process. Her intervention beautifies the process of decay, and prolongs the life of these discarded objects. Inside Out represents the artist’s simultaneous struggle with the ultimate futility of the preservative gesture and the universal fear of both human and material impermanence.

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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