Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Caroline Wells Chandler, Homunculus @ Field Projects

I saw Caroline Wells Chandler’s cookies in passing at Spring Break, and they seemed a little crafty and jokey for my liking. I walked into Field Project and immediately assumed that the giant cookies on the wall were made with actual edible toppings. For a second, I contemplated whether I could get away with eating a marshmallow peep off of one of the cookies. Might be my inner fat kid, but I had to weigh my desire to eat part of the sculpture against the shame of being caught by the person sitting the gallery. Seems to speak to a certain success in the work. Oh, even better, the toppings are cast and aren’t edible at all.

The oversized cookies are both a little gross and clearly desirable. They provided a wonderful backdrop for the life-size knit version of Muppet characters with enlarged limp penises. It is the physical embodiment of the terror I felt as a child for the off-kilter, trippy narratives of the Muppet show. Remember when Alice took the pill that made her huge and was accidentally crushing the Muppets? In the Muppets Take Manhattan, I got hysterical at the prospect of the villains chopping Kermit up and eating his legs, and I had to leave the movie. My own childhood and food issues might have blinded me to some of the gender issues in the work, and I guess they do have penises. Somehow I took the show more as the absurdity of dragging these beloved childhood characters into the reality of gender and scale, and how it transforms them into bizarre monsters. I took seeing Gonzo’s penis more as a joke about his nose than anything about sexual politics. Of course, one person’s life-size gender-specific Muppet is another’s reminder of mild childhood trauma or yet another’s “anthropomorphic guides from yesteryear” who “sprawl on the floor and slump in corners under paralytic self-reflexivity.” Either way, I found the show impressive, and it certainly stuck with me in an unsettling kind of way

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