Staff Pick: Fergus Fellows exhibition presents looks at modern female experience

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From the May 16, 2013 edition
  • Photo by Ada Matusiewicz
    Artists Dani Leventhal and Jessika Edgar.
  • Photos by Meghan Ralston

Although separate exhibitions by two artists comprise the new OSU Urban Arts Space offering, the subject matter in each traverses similar territory — the dynamics of the female body.

Ceramics sculptor Jessika Edgar and film artist Dani Leventhal held prestigious Ohio State Fergus Fellowships this year. The post-MFA program provided the artists with a studio to complete new work. This show, on view through May, features the results.

Visitors enter Edgar’s exhibit first. Titled after a famous quote from a Marxist manifesto, “All That is Solid Melts into the Air,” the various mixed media pieces expound upon Edgar’s unique look into socially constructed ideas of feminine value during her grad work at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Most of the sculptures represent a body, Edgar said, or a body part — surreal versions of a torso here, an arm there. Their dismemberment calls to mind magazine advertisements or photo shoots that use various parts of the female form as objects to show off a product for sale.

The unsettling ceramic “bodies” with rolls stacked upon each other feel at once body congratulatory and body dysmorphic. A sculpture can make the onlooker anxious; it’s designed to look unstable on its pedestal.

Although her examinations are at times critical of the way women’s bodies are treated in the media, Edgar’s work is even-handed, also recognizing parts of the fashion and beauty world she enjoys. The sculptures, for example, are painted in trendy colors, such as mint and coral. The tinsel in her chandelier references the New York runways a year ago being strewn with the shiny stuff.

Simultaneously critical but indulgent, Edgar’s show is a smart exploration of fear of the f-word. The “I’m a fashionista, but…” predicament.

“I have a love/hate relationship with it,” Edgar said. “I’m drawn to it because of the color. I like the niceties of those things. But, and I think many people, especially women, feel this way, you feel like you have to legitimize yourself when you say you like something like that.”

A black curtained-off theater houses Leventhal’s film, a collaboration with artist Jared Buckhiester. The film follows a woman named Maya, a lesbian who works as a horse breeder. Maya wants to have a baby, but, following several failed artificial insemination attempts, she approaches a longtime friend to be a sperm donor. A thoughtful study of labor, desire and objectification follows. Accompanying the film is a gallery full of paintings and collages made during shooting.