May 31, 2011

Top of the Line

The nominees for the 2011 Austin Critics Table Awards

By Robert Faires, Fri., May 27, 2011

For the 19th year, an informal affiliation of local arts critics has recognized the year’s most exceptional achievements in dance, classical music, the visual arts, and theatre. The nominations for these awards, covering the period from May 3, 2010, to April 30, 2011, were assembled by the Austin American-Statesman‘s Michael Barnes (arts), Cate Blouke (theatre), Claire Canavan (theatre), Luke Quinton (classical music/visual arts), Claire Spera (dance), and Jeanne Claire van Ryzin (arts) and the Chronicle‘s Elizabeth Cobbe (theatre), Jonelle Seitz (dance), Avimaan Syam (theatre), and Robert Faires (arts).

They will present the awards and induct the latest class of local legends into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame during an informal ceremony at 7pm on Monday, June 6, at Cap City Com­edy Club, 8120 Research. The public is welcome. Admission is free.


Museum Exhibition

“Advancing Traditions: Twenty Years of Printmaking at Flatbed Press,” Austin Museum of Art, Dana Friis-Hansen and Mark L. Smith, curators

Quadri-Poise, Jade Walker

“Becoming Tennessee Williams,” Harry Ransom Center, Charlotte Canning, curator

“Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection,” Harry Ransom Center, David Coleman, curator

“New Works for the Collection,” Blanton Museum of Art, Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, curator

“Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires,” Blanton Museum of Art, Ursula Davila-Villa, curator

“Young Latino Artists 15: Consensus of Taste,” Mexic-Arte Museum, Claudia Zapata, curator

Solo Gallery Exhibition

“Deep End: New Work by Sonya Berg,” Champion Gallery

“Diego Huerta: Town of Clouds,” Mexican American Culture Center

“For If They Fall: Works by Candace M. Briceño,” Mexican American Cultural Center

“Jules Buck Jones: Animal Again,” Champion Gallery

“New Works: Eric Zimmerman,” Austin Museum of Art

“New Works: Sunyong Chung,” Austin Museum of Art

“Raymond Uhlir,” D Berman Gallery

“Virginia Yount: Unsustainable Attainment,” Women & Their Work

Group Gallery Exhibition

“Anthropogenesis,” UT Visual Arts Center, Ariel Evans and Lauren Hamer, curators

“Joseph Phillips & Shawn Smith,” D Berman Gallery

“Objectivity,” Grayduck Gallery

“Out of Place,” Lora Reynolds Gallery, Noah Simblist, curator

“Paper 2,” Gallery Shoal Creek

“The Portrait,” L. Nowlin Gallery

“SUBstainability,” Gallery I & II, Texas State University, Mary Mikel Stump and Andy Campbell, curators

“Womanscape: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in African Art,” UT Visual Arts Center, Moyo Okediji, curator

Work of Art: Video Art

1:1, Jessica Mallios, 2011 Texas Biennial

Accumulation, Hillerbrand + Magsamen, 2011 Texas Biennial

Close Caption, James Sham, Arthouse

Dorian, a cinematic perfume, Michelle Handelman, Arthouse

Méliès, Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, Lora Reynolds Gallery

Work of Art: Independent or Public Project

Animal, David Ellis, Landmarks

A Knitted Wonderland, Magda Sayeg and the knitters of Austin, Blanton Museum of Art

More Art About Buildings and Food, Jason Middlebrook, Arthouse

Play Me, I’m Yours, Art Alliance Austin

Rehearsal at the Astoria, Graham Hudson, Arthouse

Untitled Nothing Factory, Amanda Ross-Ho, UT Visual Arts Center

Work of Art: One of a Kind

Kitty Pilgrim, Sam Sanford, 2011 Texas Biennial

The Specious Present at 700 Congress, Ryan Hennessee, Arthouse

Swarm, Shawn Smith, D Berman Gallery

Water, Water Everywhere So Let’s All Have a Drink, Okay Mountain, Austin Museum of Art

Work of Art: Installation

The Daisy Argument, Natasha Bowdoin, UT Visual Arts Center

The Mending Project, Beili Liu, Women & Their Work

Palatial Hemorrhages, Sarah Stevens, Co-Lab

Plexus 5, Gabriel Dawe, 2011 Texas Biennial

Quadri-Poise, Jade Walker, 2011 Texas Biennial

Today’s Headlines Wrap Tomorrow’s Fish, William Hundley, Co-Lab


Santiago Forero

Nathan Green

Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler

Beili Liu

Barry Stone

May 30, 2011

Jade Walker Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, San Antonio

….might be good

By Lana Shafer

Jade Walker’s newest installation Quadri-Poise, the second and final sculptural installation sited at Blue Star in San Antonio as part of the 2011 Texas Biennial, continues her conceptual and formal investigation of the body through a poetic assemblage of found objects and fabrics. Featuring a pared-down palette of flesh tones with blood red accents, Quadri-Poise is a tableau of varied sculptural elements exploring dualities in material, form and body politics.

Nestled in Blue Star’s smallest, most intimate gallery space, Walker’s installation is reminiscent of a domestic setting. The walls are neutral beige, while a portion of the floor is covered with Nitto tape placed in parallel strips like hardwood flooring. However, other elements in the space produce an uncanny atmosphere more appropriately associated with a surrealist dream world. Perched center stage is a cream and white birdlike figure with a bulbous base covered in fur fabric, a long erect neck encased with a foam collar (or neck brace) fastened with zip ties and brass brads, and a protruding beak. The sculpture’s core, and the crux of the installation, is a walking cane with a four-footed base called a Quadri-Poise— a piece of medical equipment signifying support, but also the fragility of the body.

On the back wall hang three round assemblages, also intimate in scale. Punctured with stickpins and adorned with knoblike wooden pieces, these flesh-toned objects appear as breasts, bodily fetishes on display. The baseboards are lined with a series of small, uniform, oblong-shaped sculptures made of rolled fabric and propped up against the walls like a ritualistic accumulation of bones. A large wooden mallet looming in the corner lodges another amorphous sculpture, crafted out of sutured white fur and cream fabric, against the wall. Hidden to the viewer from outside the gallery’s open double doorway, the mallet’s presence becomes ominous once the viewer enters the space. If the mallet were to suddenly drop, the central fowl would incur a heavy blow. Considering this implication of potential violence, perhaps the bird is a mythological reference to Leda and the Swan, but unlike the ancient Greek myth, in which Zeus becomes a swan to rape and impregnate Leda, Walker’s swan is fractured and vulnerable, confusing the gender roles of this motif frequently depicted in art since the Renaissance.

Walker’s soft sculpture and focus on abject bodily subjects calls to mind such precedents as Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, Annette Messager and Dorothea Tanning. Inherent to this lineage is also a reaction to the masculinity of minimalism. While Quadri-Poise utilizes the monochromatic and serial language of minimalism, Walker also suffuses each object with insightful content and subtle human touches. The viewer’s close inspection of each element in the work is highly rewarded, as poignant details—like the strand of red thread connecting a soft tuft of fur to a stickpin—are artfully revealed.

Lana Shafer is a freelance writer and art historian based in San Antonio, Texas.

May 6, 2011

Jade Walker’s ‘Quadri-Poise’ at Blue Star

San Antonio Current: Scott Andrews

Jade Walker’s installation Quadri-Poise at Blue Star Contemporary is queasy-making, filled with foreboding. Something is wrong, but stifled — mute as the dead silence that announces a predator.

Strewn across the small room of the exhibit is a collection of abandoned things. A tufted cane coupled to a pipe and wrapped with buttoned strapping is thrust into a rounded mass of fake fur. Are the straps a prosthesis or bondage? The fur looks wet, aged, or tossed in passion. Puckered flesh-like rubber sheet surrounds the wound, held by fraying sutures. In the corner a huge wood pole is topped with a laminate crossbeam like a giant’s mallet. It braces the corner of the room, but underneath are small bits (the cane’s tip or doll’s shoe) holding up the mammoth construction. Lining the walls like a loading dock are small bumpers. A swath encrusted with broken rubber nipples crosses the back wall. Everything is mottled, pale as chlorine burns. Preventing the viewer’s approach is a tiny barricade, inches high, fronting the scene. This is the scene of a wreck, a car crash of sorts, perhaps domestic.

While living in Kyoto, Japan, for several years, Walker often visited the public baths. Surrounded by three generations of naked women, she discovered a constant variation in bodies. Nipples distend, wrinkle, and bend with age. “It is,” she says, “the same for men.”

Pairing found objects with new constructions, Walker creates sculptures and tableaux that comment on gender, organs, and the mutations of ageing. Though the elements of the work may be familiar — fake fur, pipes, and straps — this isn’t camp or nostalgia. The objects seem anthropomorphic, but whether they are bodies or body parts is ambiguous.

Walker relates that an older male viewer once commented that on seeing her work he knew she must be a woman. If he had seen her current installation, he might just as well have said that she must be a shaman. The fur-thing looks much like the vomi, the mass of bloody fur or feathers a shaman sucks from his patient’s body while treating disease.

But in contemporary society, organs are apparently a feminine concern. The assumption might be due to the many feminist artists that have dealt with body issues since Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party celebrated the vulva in the 1970s. Or perhaps, the masculine tradition overlooks organs — unless they are eroticized. Boys today are famously fond of avatars — virtual bodies that don’t age or become ill. If killed, no matter: just boot up the game again and keep playing.

Stories from books and news items inspire Walker’s work, but they are just starting points. In the current work, Walker mentions that women in Japan who labor long years in rice fields are subject to developing a curvature of the spine as they age. The cane’s curve replicates the bent shape of their backs. But the cane represents itself, too. Walker’s bits and pieces swirl to metaphor and story and back again to being pieces of sculpture, textured shapes in a room. Quadri-Poise is part of the “Texas Biennial,” curated by Virginia Rutledge.

Free, 12-6pm Tue-Sat, 12-8pm Thu, 116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960, Exhibit on view to May 14.

Apr 19, 2011

Texas Biennial: Jade Walker

Featuring Jade Walker; curated by Virginia Rutledge

Opening Reception

May 5
6:00 – 8:00 pm


Apr 21, 2011 – May 14, 2011


Gallery 4

As part of the Texas Biennial 2011, Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and Big Medium present Texas Biennial:  Jade Walker, featuring a sculptural installation entitled “Quadri-Poise” by Jade Walker, curated by Virginia Rutledge.  The opening reception for this event will be held on Thursday, May 5 from 6 to 8 pm.

Jan 24, 2011

Austin Visual Arts Awards 2010 winners

By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin | Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 08:46 PM

The Austin Visual Arts Association handed out their second annual awards to visual artists. Winners were selected by a panel of local arts professionals.

AVAA Art Awards 2010

  • Artist of the Year—2D: Lance Letscher
  • Artist of the Year—3D: Jade Walker
  • Artist of the Year—Photography: Santiago Forero
  • Artist of the Year—Early Career: Carlos Rosales-Silva
  • Artist of the Year—New Media: Ryan Hennessee
  • Collectors Circle Award: Ken Hale
  • Art Patron of the Year: Mike Chesser
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Don Snell
  • Service to the Arts Award: Robert Faires
  • President’s Award of Excellence: Edward Povey

Image: Ryan Hennessee, “The Specious Present at 700 Congress,” digital video still. Commissioned project by Arthouse.

Dec 20, 2010

Austin Visual Arts Awards “And the Fearing goes to …” II


Heather Tolleson, the 2009 Artist of the Year Early Career, bestows the honor on this year’s winner, Carlos Rosales-Silva.

For the sophomore presentation of the Austin Visual Arts Awards, the setting was changed, but the sentiment was much the same. The Austin Visual Arts Association, which sponsors the honors, shifted the ceremony from the Austin Museum of Art community room to a ballroom in the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas campus, which relieved the congestion of the inaugural ceremony – to be fair, AVAA hadn’t expected 250 people to show up – and gave it the ambience of a more traditional awards show. But the sense of community, the gratitude for Austin’s welcoming inclusiveness best expressed last year by Beili Liu after being named Artist of the Year 3 Dimensional Art, was back. Artist of the Year Photography Santiago Forero, who moved here from his native Colombia in 2007, said that he feels more like an Austin artist after three years than he ever felt like a Colombian artist. In accepting the 2010 President’s Award of Excellence, British artist Edward Povey said that he and his artist wife, Donna, moved here from Wales because of all the places they’d ever visited, Austin was “the most real.”

Povey looked a bit gobsmacked when AVAA President Donna Crosby announced him as the recipient, which had been kept a secret (as had been the winner of the Service to the Arts Award, which caught this humble reporter completely off-guard, thus accounting for the overly long and rambling thank-you). But Povey was as charming on the receiving end of an award as he’d been on the giving end; in presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to the unstoppable 88-year-old Don Snell – who was at the ceremony despite having broken his hip just days earlier – Povey brought a top hat to the podium so he might literally take off his hat to Snell. He noted pointedly, however, that the award is in a sense premature, as Snell is “not yet done” – and seeing the vitality of this artist deep into his 80s may have sent more than one artist scurrying from the ceremony right back to the studio.

The Austin Visual Arts Awards, nicknamed “Fearings” in honor of longtime Texas artist Kelly Fearing, started this year with 100 nominations submitted from 16 area arts organizations, galleries, studios, media outlets, and museums. The artists receiving the highest scores were named finalists. A selection committee made up of seven arts professionals scored each finalist independently, and the artists with the highest scores were recognized with awards. The full list of winners is inset.

The 2010 Austin Visual Arts Awards Winners

Artist of the Year 2 Dimensional Art: Lance Letscher

Artist of the Year 3 Dimensional Art: Jade Walker

Artist of the Year Photography: Santiago Forero

Artist of the Year Early Career: Carlos Rosales-Silva

Artist of the Year New Media: Ryan Hennessee

Collectors Circle Award: Ken Hale

Art Patron of the Year: Mike Chesser

Lifetime Achievement Award: Don Snell

Service to the Arts Award: Robert Faires

President’s Award of Excellence: Edward Povey

Feb 13, 2010


Thanks to June Mattingly for the mention.

Jan 26, 2010

Spectator Sport in the Chronicle

In the Game

For her first museum work, Jade Walker steps up to the plate and swings big


Jade Walker
Photo by John Anderson

When you step into the space holding the large installation that Jade Walker has created for the Austin Museum of Art, there’s no question where you are. The crunch of artificial turf under your feet, the bleachers filling the room: This is a stadium, and by virtue of the fact that you’re looking up at the stands, you’re on the field. In the game. Where the action is.

It’s a place that the creator of this imposing, ambitious work should know something about. In Austin’s visual arts scene, she’s as deep in the action as it gets. Since making her way to Austin in 2002 to pursue graduate studies in sculpture at the University of Texas, Walker has taught art courses to children at AMOA’s Art School. For six years, she’s been teaching three-dimensional design to university students in the UT Department of Art & Art History. Since 2006, she’s been the director of Creative Research Laboratory, the off-campus contemporary art gallery run by the department; 16 months ago, she was also named the curator for the gallery in the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at UT; and this year, she’s taking on the position of director of the new Visual Arts Center in the art department. On top of all that, she’s been extremely busy as an artist, with her signature sculptures of found objects, fabric, and thread showing up in the annual faculty exhibitions at CRL and People’s Gallery exhibitions at City Hall, the juried “New American Talent” exhibition in 2008 and Texas Biennial in 2009, and the solo installation “Trophy Room” at Domy Books this past September. At the risk of belaboring the sports metaphor, that much activity qualifies Walker as a starter for the local team. Certainly, AMOA saw her that way when it tapped Walker to be the first person to exhibit in its “New Works” series, which spotlights innovative local artists.

“We knew we wanted an artist who would experiment and transform the gallery,” says AMOA assistant curator Andrea Mellard, and “we thought of Jade. We’d been watching her work shift in scale from small wall installations to human-sized floor sculptures and ceiling installations. We thought that she was ready to try a room-sized installation in a museum. Her work is also engaging formally, visually, and conceptually. Austin is known for a strong craft community, and while Jade has an M.F.A. and doesn’t consider her work craft, we thought her use of textiles, DIY practice, and stitch-work would be exciting to that audience. Mostly, we wanted to choose an artist taking a leap in a new direction, and we thought Jade was ready to accomplish that.”

Mellard called on Walker at her studio to broach the subject of her possibly taking on a “New Works” project: “I posed the question, ‘If you could do anything in that room, what would you do?’ Often, emerging artists have parameters to work within, like making work that fits into an allotted space in a group show or that will sell in a commercial gallery. I want this to be a place for experiment and play.”

Spectator Sport

That’s just what Walker was primed to do: “I was very interested in working on a large installation. There were no real parameters on the exhibition, and this was what really excited me about the opportunity.”

As Mellard notes, Walker had been in the process of expanding her work, in terms of both the size of the individual sculptures and the space in which they were presented, and AMOA’s invitation would really allow her to get big with it. She wanted to make work of a size that would command the space, confront the audience. “This exhibition afforded me the chance to completely take over a large space and push my skill set in terms of handling scale,” she says. “It was necessary to have the staff and installation crew to make this piece happen.” For Walker, “New Works” was the artistic equivalent of – okay, one more sports metaphor – the minor leaguer with dreams of the majors getting called up to the show.

In the AMOA project, Walker chose to take advantage of the opportunity not only to play with scale but to dig more deeply into a subject that had become a focus of her work: sports. While her previous art had been rooted in the human body, specifically in how it is affected by disease, aging, and physical abnormalities, it didn’t include the strain and trauma that can be inflicted through athletics, mostly because Walker had little personal knowledge of or experience with sports.

“It was not until I read an excerpt from Michael Sokolove’s text Warrior Girls in The New York Times that I homed in and started thinking about the ailments to the body caused by the drive in athletics,” she says. “I found this text particularly interesting because it addresses young women’s athletics. Gender issues in the arts run parallel with women’s athletics. This led to discussions with female athletes, as well as investigating spaces that contain or glorify this intense passion. I am attracted to the way female athletes push the limits of the body while also feeling that this is not necessary and wondering how this will affect our future feminist efforts.”

Walker took a swing at the topic with “Trophy Room,” her site-specific installation at Domy Books. She carpeted the floor of the 11-foot-by-11-foot room with green artificial turf and swathed the walls with sky-blue fabric that rippled and puckered over indistinguishable shapes, bulges, and small ledges. Perched on each ledge was a small piece of sports equipment – a football, a bowling pin, a golf club head – with pink and tan fabric sewed over it. The work managed to evoke in this tightly enclosed space a sense of the outdoors where these sporting activities take place, and the fabric suggested the flesh with which we touch and grasp and play with these objects, almost as if skin had grown over them from all that contact and someone had carefully, tenderly sealed these playthings inside it. Walker had created an immersive setting for the viewer in establishing a relationship between our bodies and athletics, but she thought that, in the words of Mellard, “there was more to flesh out of the subject for her AMOA piece.”

Spectator Sport (detail)

As curator for Walker’s “New Works” project, Mellard assisted her in the fleshing out. “I contacted a friend who is a sports historian, and he gave Jade and me a reading list – books on women’s sports history, documentary photographs of stadiums and sporting events, et cetera, and contacts for a sports historian at UT. We talked about artists’ work relating to sports that might inspire her, particularly a group show called ‘Mixed Signals’ about masculinity and sports. I was mostly a sounding board for Jade as the project developed. Once she had a pretty clear idea of what she wanted to do, I encouraged her, asked questions, and helped solve logistical problems. We had four more studio visits, when I’d come see the progress of the sculptures and give her feedback.”

It was assistance that Walker found invaluable. “Andrea visited my studio a number of times. We corresponded often throughout the process. She also was very involved in helping with print pieces and solving mistakes that came up during the installation process. When they delivered green instead of orange turf while I was out of town for work, she found a way to get the mistake remedied within days. The encouragement from Andrea to think big and to make the piece exactly what I imagined – with no compromises – was also important. I told her this was the first ‘large-scale’ piece that came out to be exactly what was in my mind and in my sketches.”

What came out of Walker’s mind was a full-size section of bleachers, like you might find behind a backstop at Krieg Fields or a Little League ballpark, but completely covered in pale-beige fabric with a ruffled skirt around its base. Where the spectators sit are an assortment of different of seats and cushions, on which are set abstract sculptures made from sports equipment, colored fabric, plastics, and fur, some of them tied with ribbons or sewn with thread. Most don’t look remotely human, yet we make the connection with them as such through the way these objects occupy the seats that we would at a sporting event and the recognizable fragments of items we use that poke through the enveloping, binding cloth: a barbell, a showerhead, the rubber tip of a crutch, a hot-water bottle, a boxing glove. Because some of them appear worn or used, they convey a sense of damage sustained on the field of play, the thread suggesting sutures to bind their wounds, the cloth their protective bandaging. Given that the artist has purposely placed us on the field – you can’t take a step without being reminded of it by that skeevy scrunch of the bright-orange plastic turf – we’re left to consider what it means to still be in the game (whatever game that is) and what injuries we might yet incur that would consign us to the stands beside these wounded “players.” Walker’s choices of certain fabrics and decorations and the protuberances of a distinctly sexual nature that she’s added to some of the objects bring gender into the game and provoke questions about just who gets to play when it comes to sports, who’s left to watch, and what that means. With Spectator Sport, the artist has succeeded in filling up the “New Works” exhibition space not just with the commanding physical structure but with ideas and questions that linger long after you’ve stepped away from the field. No wonder Walker is pleased.

She isn’t alone. “I’m thrilled with Spectator Sport as our first ‘New Works’ project,” says Mellard. “The room glows with color, the carpet crunches under footsteps. The overwhelming scale of the bleachers draped in fabric and seated with abstract figures confronts you like they are watching you on the field. Longer looking surprises you by revealing all the found materials Jade recycled, covered, painted, wrapped, and turned into art. Jade’s installation works on several levels: Schoolchildren love playing ‘eye spy,’ M.F.A. art students appreciate her connections to feminist art history, UT athletics fans are surprised to find contemporary art about sports, and tourists have never seen anything like it. It’s exactly the kind of cutting-edge new work I hoped to see in that space.”

The public reception to the work pleases Walker, too: “The response to the work has felt superpositive. My favorite responses were from children the night of the opening and the preview night. Their interpretations are always innocent and honest, and I have found their delight in the work inspirational.”

Inspirational. A quality that’s common to narratives about sports – the athlete who trains, who perseveres, who triumphs, sometimes against injury, personal tragedy, seemingly insurmountable odds – and Walker’s work with the subject seems to be informing what she hopes to do as an artist, a teacher, and a curator. “In thinking about my aspirations not only as a part of the Austin arts community but specifically in each of my roles, I keep thinking of a word that is so overused: inspire,” she says. “I want to arouse viewers with my work as an artist. I want students to think about new ideas as we engage in conversation, and I want to challenge the community as I program the Visual Arts Center. The Visual Arts Center will be an instigator – a place for process and risk. Qualities applicable to the Visual Arts Center may include being immediate, flexible, vital, welcoming, all-encompassing, experimental, educational, open, evolving, collaborative, collective, explosive, and challenging.”

Sounds like Jade Walker plans to be in the game for a long time to come.

“New Works: Jade Walker” runs through Jan. 31 at the Austin Museum of Art – Downtown, 823 Congress. Jade Walker talks about the inspiration and process for making her installationThursday, Jan. 21, 7pm, at AMOA. For more information, call 495-9224 or Spectator Sport

Jan 21, 2010

Jade and Robert in Japan

We got tagged visiting this really great gallery in Toyko!  Check out the blog

Dec 18, 2009

Review by Claire Ruud in ….might be good

Jade Walker’s sculptures are sexed—penile and vaginal forms abound. But they are not gendered—no “males” or “females” here. Rather, these are androgynes, hermaphrodites and other indeterminate bodies—indeterminate, at least according to our typical binary gender system. The sculptures sit alone or in pairs or triples on imposing bleachers in AMOA’s small back gallery. Many wear braces and bandages. The space is claustrophobic. The bleachers, ensconced in a Band-aid-colored felt skirt and raised to put the front row at eye-level, fill the room to bursting. Similarly colored walls and orange Astroturf add to the effect. The Astroturf scrunches and crunches with every footfall, awkwardly interrupting the quiet of the museum, like the steps of doctors in scrubs and shoe covers in a deserted corridor. In short, the installation walks a disconcerting line between sports arena and hospital ward.
Walker’s installation is an ode to bodies as contested spaces. If her creature-sculptures could speak, their huzzah would take up the feminist slogan, “Battleground, battleground, your body is a battleground!” Their bodies bear both the wounds of this battle and the marks of tender care. Walker sutures a gaping hole here, braces a sagging body there. In her hands, “your body is a battleground” isn’t an issue-based dictum. It’s a statement of fact about all our bodies. We use them, politicians use them, journalists use them. On our bodies, we work out definitions, struggle over rights and imagine new possibilities. Our bodies become fields of play, and Spectator Sport literally puts us in the game.
Cultural reference points for this work exist in abundance. Recently, “Iron Mike” Webster’s once-athletic, prematurely destroyed body has served as a primary playing field in the NFL-Alzheimer’s debate over the brain injuries incurred by football players. Semenya Caster’s powerfully muscular body has been tossed into the match over gender-normativity. Outside the sports arena, American bodies—especially aging bodies and women’s bodies—have been the subject of much attention within the healthcare debate. These public controversies are on Walker’s radar; she names Michael Sokolove’s Warrior Girls (2008), a book arguing that young women athletes should be trained and coached differently than their male counterparts, as one starting point for the installation.
Iconic images of bodies in your newspaper feel distant. By contrast, Walker’s sculptures invest bodily forms with tactility and intimacy. At once reminiscent of cuddly teddy-bears and cold anatomical models, they attract and repulse. Pairs of sculptures lean on one another for support, or seem to embrace lovingly. Sharp nails and taught stitches suggest pain. Rubbery bits feel awkward.
The danger is that the attraction and repulsion these sculptures elicit morph into pity rather than empathy. Pity contains contempt; it allows us to disassociate our bodies from the bodies of Walker’s sculptures. Empathy creates room for identification. It allows for the possibility that our fascination with Webster and Semenya is a defense against our own fears of not being “man” or “woman” enough. It enables us to recognize that Warrior Girls reincarnates an age-old impulse to contain the vulnerability of all our bodies within women’s bodies.
In Spectator Sport, one sculpture sitting in the front row of the bleachers successfully fends off our pity with her gawking stare. Mouth agape, her single eye (the rubber end of a crutch, perhaps) periscopes out at us, reminding that she is the spectator and we are the ones to be looked at. The bodies of Walker’s sculptures merely reflect the ambiguity, messiness and fragility of our own.

  • In the Future

    • Nothing scheduled at the moment.