Thursday, February 4, 2010

a midwestern girl.

The 2nd to last connective thread feature is on the midwestern artist Summer Zickfoose, a fabulous name I must say. Summer had 2 lovely works in the exhibit both hair embroideries on old christening children's' dresses. The works spoke about memory, loss, nostalgia, and innocence.
They were very beautiful and worked incredibly well with the surrounding artist work.

Summer grew up in the cornfields of Iowa and now calls the heart of America, my homestate, Ohio, home. Her Midwestern background and childhood greatly influences her work. One often sees the tools of the farm being re-created as objects of artistic design, nostalgic memories, and yearning.

The Scenery Series, collected vintage handsaws, feedsack fabric

Her work and projects though often visually simple are quite profound in their thought out conceptual development and careful arrangement.

Her installation Cockleburs and Pleasantries is a gorgeous installation that includes porcelain cups re-fired with the words of Midwestern women's diaries on them and inside of them, each one hung carefully collecting objects from the Midwestern farm womans life. The piece is gorgeous.

In, Remaining Cloth, simple white towels are treated with wet plaster, and hung on a nail. The simplicity of the form and action add to the quality and metaphor of the work. Plus I just love me some gorgeous white plaster any day.

The towels become physical memories of what would usually be a fleeting moment. Their repetition suggests a series of repeated actions or days, a monotonous chore completed, but yet their changing forms defy that monotony.

Feeding Sites

In addition to gorgeous objects and installations Summer has done a number of quietly beautiful performances. You can read detailed desciptions of her performances on her website and see detail and performance images.

Object Lessons, top image performance, bottom image detail of plate.

By researching her work more, one quickly sees the reverence and respect Summer has for the Midwestern woman that has come before her and a deep connection to the personal history of her family.

Her statement reads more like a poem. Here is an excerpt:

It is called the middle of nowhere; observed from an interstate. The sticks, the hicks, the mind-numbing boredom. The absence of culture, of progress, of significance.

The rural, American landscape...

As with any archaeology, there is the place, its culture, and the objects and materials used by that culture. I believe these objects and materials hold within them a multitude of secrets.

She watched the lights from across the road
to see when they went to bed.
She maintained the regiments of a controlled lifestyle.

This somehow balanced the uncertainty of weather,
of markets, of survival. ...

a reinvented vernacular, layers of history are revealed and evolving rural customs are unearthed.

He always said,
in regards to the persistence of jello salads,
that they weren’t good enough to be a dessert

and weren’t healthy enough to be a salad.

A fragment from a Midwestern woman’s diary embellishes the surface of a ceramic cup, which is then filled with cockleburs. The surface of a family christening gown is embroidered with hair, two generations later. An old, circular saw blade is cut into the pattern of a doily. The familiar is tilled and rearranged. I exploit the decorative and accessible qualities of commonplace objects, then pair them with the more grotesque, visceral experiences of the body. An overlooked and ordinary chocolate chip cookie can, in the course of a performance, be revealed as both cultural icon and social tool. The corporeal and the subversive combine, conjuring honest dualities of the comfortable and awkward, the conventional and progressive, the distressing and humorous that are components of nearly every family, culture, and place.

He knows this land very well...
The familiarity comforts and smothers him simultaneously.

Posey County Breakfast

Being a proud Midwestern girl myself, Summer's work makes me a bit nostalgic for my own childhood, with the use of cockleburs reminding me of playing at my grandpa's camp by the Ohio river, the cornfields of her performances taking me back to childhood car rides and fairs, and the simplicity of life and family reminding me that sometimes simplicity is much better than the hectic life of the urban landscape.

Letter Cups

I also find it fascinating that as an artist who is quite in love with words and language that a number of the connective thread artists work and write like poets though their initial selection of work was based entirely on the visual. Perhaps a visual poet is more easily recognized then I would have thought.

For more of Summer's work visit her website.


Jan said...

Joetta, what a lovely commentary. And, I love the quote "He knows this land very well... The familiarity comforts and smothers him simultaneously." I would imagine that many people feel this way when they go back home.

Joetta M. said...

thanks. and yes that quote amongst the jello salad one is quite perfect and poetic:)