empathy

Hats, Shoes & The Art In Between

As I emerge from the L Train, I find myself on a warehouse-lined street: aging hipsters stand outside the hastily-painted brick buildings, chatting excitedly about the ongoing gallery openings within – it’s summer in Bushwick. Studio 10 currently hosts North of My Brain, South of My Ass: Hats and Shoes by Artists, a show featuring thirteen artists’ work: a mélange of sculpture, painting, mixed media, and performance.

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I wipe the subway sweat off my brow and journey through the plumes of smoke into the exhibition space: a single room full of mid-century-old gallery-goers. My eyes float around, meeting a ten-foot, inflated set of psychedelic, black-fringed, yellow eyes: Li'l Yello by feminist artist Nancy Davidson. The two eyes, propped up by two different patterned, neon green poles, are unrelenting.

"Li'l Yello" by Nancy Davidson. Photo: Melissa Bartucci

The piece taps into an absurd, garish tradition of the carnival, but is an equally serious statement: a human boiled down to a set of leering eyes. Li’l Yello is the oppressive male gaze in sculpture. The eyes also remind me of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg from The Great Gatsby – perhaps because I recently saw the movie. But maybe Davidson is repurposing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic symbol representing the immoral nature of modern society, applying it to her feminist oeuvre. Her critique, however, is more literal; she illustrates the rise of male power through the towering, unstable sculpture.

Under Moira Williams's hat. Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Other artists, including Moira Williams, steered clear of artifice. “My art is a part of who I am. Its environment, earth, and gesture,” Williams articulates, standing under her hat: a strange helmet lined with bleached-newspaper attached to a megaphone that dangles from the ceiling above us. The newspaper, in its past life, had been printed with Colombian Spanish. Williams had slept on it during her beekeeping training in Bogota in hopes that the words would be absorbed into her dreams, improving her language. During her months in South America, she communicated namely with movement. Her piece echoes her apian learning process, as she repeats the actions taught by her mentor, Alejandro David Osorio Pérez, a trained beekeeper. Osorio Pérez’s voice floats through the megaphone, recreating her formative training South of the Border.

Despite Studio 10’s pseudo-edgy title, its first summer opening is a success: bringing Brooklynites to this inconveniently-located neighborhood for the sake of kooky art. The exhibit holds true to its name, showing both conventional and unconventional interpretations of hats and shoes. 

Article by Anna Kate Gedal