“Elephants in Small Places” Reviewed in TimeOut Chicago!

January 23, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard; you can see the original site (what was published in TimeOut Chicago this week!) for this post here.

Time Out Chicago / Issue 204 : Jan 22–28, 2009

“Elephants in Small Places”

by Lauren Weinberg

Shannon Gerard wants you to examine your breasts or prostate: The Toronto-based artist’s brilliant BOOBS & DINKS (2007) project encourages early detection of cancer through hipster PSAs.

Gerard crochets adorable miniature breasts and penises that enable users to practice checking for lumps. She also illustrates self-exam instructions with witty screenprints. Sans-serif lettering and clip-artlike figures give Gerard’s prints a 1950s aesthetic that’s hilariously at odds with her sexy, tattooed subjects’ contemporary vibe. The artist’s humorous, tender invitations to take care of yourself are not just well crafted; the efficacy of their comforting approach makes you wonder why our encounters with the health-care system tend to be fraught with anxiety.

That anxiety suffuses Jennifer Wilkey’s photographs of handcrafted objects in hospital settings. A hospital curtain fills most of Day 47 (2007), leaving exposed a woman’s bare feet and a long, skinny piece of knitted red yarn that emerges from beneath the curtain and runs along the floor. Wilkey’s skillful contrast between the room’s drabness and the yarn’s warm color allows for multiple interpretations: The knitting could be a hobby that distracts the patient or a lifeline leading her out of this depressing environment, but it also evokes blood—or a wayward body part. In Take Two, Three Times Daily (2007), a line of plastic pill cups extends down a seemingly infinite hospital corridor; Wilkey re-creates the installation in the gallery itself, where it brings to life the terrifying tedium of medical treatment.

It’s unclear how Clare Britt’s collage of black pages from fashion magazines and Derek Haverland’s installation of blank credit cards relate to illness, but these forgettable works don’t distract from Gerard and Wilkey’s powerful explorations of the theme.

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