Earlier this week I visited the über cool Surface Gallery in Nottingham to see the grand opening of their 2010 Surface Open Show winner’s exhibition. Texas based artist Janet Morrow has been preparing her three week solo exhibition for nearly a year after scooping the prize and is her first in the UK.
“A Community of Non-normative Beings” is a body of work examining themes of deafness, disability and otherness and what it means to occupy a non-normative body in a culture where normality is narrowly defined. Striking shimmering sculptures of polythene plastic, polyester organza, ink, rope, helium and concrete among other materials, dramatically occupy the space.
Morrow’s creatures cohabit and exist together, effortlessly defying the largely narrow definitions of normality we live by. They populate their space harmoniously; some inflated, others floating and wafting, all living together and at one with the air that surrounds them. Through this seductive body of work that includes video, photography and site specific installation, we are encouraged to meditate upon the question ‘what is it to be truly human?’ and to imagine life as a non-normative being; what would it look like? Where would we dwell?
As a bi-lateral cochlear implant wearer, Morrow lives, as she describes, as “a person who is part organic and part machine” and seeks to question technology’s influence on our lives. Marginalisation is also central to the Texan artist’s work and with works such as ‘The Monstrous Birth’, ‘Skin and Bone’, ‘Drips’ and the powerful, ‘Constrained’, Morrow seeks to draw our attention to the frailty of human life and the subsequent tribulations and suffering that can be inflicted upon the body and person. Yet, these seemingly awkward plump glowing beings are satisfied and content in their industrial environment, symbolising successful communication, harmony, and therefore hope for the non-normative being.
By utilising both her sculptures and their dwellings made from photographs of industrial interiors, to create her unique community, Morrow builds an exhibition that can reflect the experience of an individual who, labelled as disabled or ‘other’ can find a space to exist and breathe.
The event was buzzing with excitement and art enthusiasts from across the city were deep in discussion exploring the connotations of Janet Morrow’s inspiring work. I believe that’s the perfect sign of a successful emotive work of art.
The exhibition will run from 14th-25th June 2011 and is entirely free. If you like what you see, the Surface Gallery will be participating in Nottingham’s “Notlost” festival in July, that showcases the work of creatives in the independent art scene around the local area. You can check out their website or Facebook and Twitter to find out what events are to follow the spectacular Janet Morrow.
For those who’ve entered this years Open Show, the lucky few shortlists will be announced by the end of this week and published online so keep your eyes open, you could be in Janet’s shoes next year!