“But we do”, said Marlene.  And perhaps we do.  It’s hard to make art when you’re working full time, especially full time at a low paying job.  How to pay for housing, food and art materials when you’re on the poverty line?

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But artists are a creative lot.  Or at least they should be.  And sometimes creativity needs to be about finding materials and finding exhibition spaces.  On Friday night, for one night only, the Jesses, Marlene and Michael, staged a show in the front room of a friend’s house.

In one corner Michael had an installation of his painted paintings and photographs.  Inspired by Ellen Gallager, he takes art images from books and with black paint he removes, what he considers to be, superfluous information.  What is left is a series of arms and hands and eyes all vivid and stark against inky black.  It’s a mysterious-looking project.  One painting of a man, but with nothing left after the black paint treatment, except for eyes, arms, one hand holding a cigarette and over to the side a glass of drink, reminded me of a hangman; an executioner relaxing after a hard day’s work, simultaneously evil and genial.  When I remarked on this, Michael said that it was an image that reminded him of his father, and he pointed out the profound ambiguity of imagery made up of only bits and pieces of information.  It’s an interesting point; one with ramifications beyond art.

michael jess, paintings

In the other corner (sounds like a boxing match), was Marlene‘s project.  When I first heard about this exhibit, I was under the impression that Marlene was going to perform a potato chip eating marathon in order to make a point about mindless consumption, and when I first arrived at the show, and saw all the bags of chips lined up, I felt a real pang of pity for her.  It seemed so self punishing.  I really didn’t want to see the poor girl crunch her way through all those chips, but then she invited me to eat some.  And I realized that in fact, Marlene was documenting the eating of chips.

On the wall as a reflector, was a strip of inside out chip bags.  Beneath the reflector was a wooden box and a line of chip bags.  Ketchup, BBQ, Salt and Vinegar and Ripple (but no dip).  I chose Ketchup.  She photographed me eating the chips.  They were pretty tasty.  On a good day, I could have eaten quite a few, but fortuately I’d just eaten a big bowl of Vietnemese noodles, so the damage was minimal, and I didn’t have to feel sorry for myself either.

But I thought it was interesting.  Group chip eating.  Virtual stangers eating from the same bag, a non-food, so familiar to us all culturally that it might as well be mother’s milk.

marlene photographing steve mihaly, eating chips

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