Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mine at Invisible-Exports

In the group show, Mine, several artists respond to bodily assault. Self-portrait “headshots” of the artists as they deal with bodily trauma are a means for conveying the implications of their experiences.

For Hannah Wilke, illness morphed her body from a tool—whose image she often intentionally tinkered with in her work—to a new self outwardly redefined by lymphoma treatment. Three sets of triptych photos taken at different stages of Wilke’s disease show her body transforming outside her control. For Bob Flanagan (working with Sheree Rose), the slow agony of cystic fibrosis meant a lifetime of physical suffering. Pain is wall-sized mosaic of closely cropped photos showing Flanagan’s face portraying a spectrum of pain. Pinned up with hypodermic needles and taken over a period of 11 years, they almost overwhelm the small gallery. For Jana Leo, rape resulted in a loss of self and a sensation that she was defined by the experience. In Frozen Memory, she manipulates an earlier self-portrait (titled After) to express her feeling of dissolution. She replicates the image and adds layers, giving the appearance that she is trapped beneath a sheet of ice progressively obscuring her face.

The gallery literature specifies that two definitions of the show title are significant. Referring firstly to “mine” as possession, in this case the artist’s possession of their body and subsequently its damage, and secondly to “mine” as a hidden bomb, a metaphor for the means of said damage. A third definition of “mine”—a tunnel dug to extract something of value—is applicable as well. The artists responded to suffering by cathartically transforming the experience into something of value for themselves and the viewer.


  1. The highly emotional and traumatic events that spawned these works made this show difficult to navigate. As you said, the artists responded to their suffering by "cathartically transforming" their experiences into art that forces the viewer to consider the pain through which the works were created. For me, this show was successful because of its unrelenting confrontation of the awful situations faced by each artist. Yes, the pieces are disturbing, but they are tenacious in their direct refusal to gloss over the horrific events that can disrupt our lives.

  2. While I think that all three definitions of the show "Mine," it as a tunnel, it as a hidden bomb, and it as a possession, are effective I don't think that reiterating the gallery's text is helpful as a piece of criticism.

    Hannah Wilke's self portraits do of course show her body transforming "out of her control" but what I think is more striking is the contrast between her suffering and the pop-esque coloration of the photos. Similarly I think it would have been helpful to talk about the affect of Bob Flanagans photo mosaic rather than only describing it physically. Perhaps out of the context of the show the facial expressions would seem more ambiguous - ranging from pain to ecstasy