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.
|"Skin", 2010-2011, panty hose|
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.