Jody MacDonald: Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?

April 30–May 29 2010 in the Main Space

Opening reception: Friday April 30th, 8:00 PM

Artist Talk: Friday April 30th, 7:00 PM

Vancouver Artist Jody MacDonald takes on notions of identity and celebrity with dark humor and wit. Working in a truly intermedia fashion, MacDonald combines art historical references, 3D creations, textiles and photo multiples.

Macdonald’s work is playful and sardonic, the plush elements are at the same time inviting and repulsive as they reveal abnormalities and hybridity that may cause one to double-take. Ultimately the plush and humorous works start to point a finger and ask some serious questions about modern consumer culture.

View posts about Jody MacDonald on the Latitude 53 blog.

Monograph Essay by Stephanie Jonsson

Identity constructs permeate contemporary culture, and we see it reflected on a large scale with publicity photographs of celebrities, and our Facebook profile pictures. We are able to wear our identities as accessories; we create them to suit our whims, but they can also force us into an unfamiliar mindset, feeling caged and contorted to their limiting boundaries.

In Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up? Jody MacDonald has created many socially critical sculptures that challenge our notion of identity and how we perceive and represent ourselves in a consumer culture. Her mixed media approach includes the use of unbleached cotton, acrylic paint, and polyester fiberfill. Creating doll-like figures with materials and methods traditionally reserved for doll making, MacDonald succeeds at producing a result that is anything but conventional. Incorporating contemporary processes like gel photo transfer, she deals with issues of identity in a new and refreshing way. The process by which the sculptures are made, and their manufactured nature, mimics the mass-produced assembly line that they ultimately critique.

Through the use of anonymous figures, MacDonald presents themes that are more universal than personal.  Exploiting the idea of the individual lost in a multitude of amalgamated personalities, she repeats the same face (a self portrait that has been gel transferred on to the figure’s heads) on all of the pieces in the Slim Shady series. Although MacDonald doesn’t consider these images to be self-portraits in the traditional sense, she follows a tradition of artists that come before her, using the self as an arena for critique. She has employed her own portrait so as to include herself in this critique, as she too struggles with the concept of genuine identity and fitting into a consumer culture.

Tourist Attraction
Tourist Attraction (enlarge)

In works like “Tourist Attraction”, the stage is set with a surreal, strange forest near the sea. A family of deer stares at the viewer, as if the viewer were behind a camera and coaxing them to smile for a portrait. Their bodies have abnormalities - mutated phalanges sprout through the tops of their heads. At first they seem like a strange deer family that stands on their haunches like humans, but one of them has a deer body and upon closer examination we realize the upright deer have antlers that are made of human hands. The piece references Frida Kahlo’s painting, “The Little Deer” (1946). In Kahlo’s original, her own face peers out at the audience as the face of the wounded deer. MacDonald has removed the face and created a cutout where tourists can place their own faces and pose for a photo opportunity, MacDonald makes her rendering three dimensional, almost like a stage, creating a multi-layered effect.

MacDonald invites curiosity while repulsing the viewer and forcing them to question their repulsion. In works like “Favorite Ways with Pheasant (Monday thru Sunday)”, inspired by the cookbook Favorite Ways With Chicken, MacDonald addresses Jungian archetypes in a way that suggests a daily rotation of certain roles we play as personalities that are part of a fragmented self. Each figure is strangely sexualized, and suggests a different costume for each day of the week. The soft plush forms are hung against mirrors to reinforce each character’s self critique, and the viewer can also see herself in this process. The mirrors suggest the duality of a silver serving platter and a vanity mirror. The pheasants can be perceived as “exotic” fare or “wild game” that are meant to be baited, chased, captured, consumed, or displayed. The psychological conflict is evident in these personalities, and the viewer feels involved as she catches a glimpse of herself behind the figures that hang helplessly from their metal poultry skewers like dead pheasants. This work is like others in the series that include targets, piercing/penetration, bondage and distorted anatomy – all things that individuate and exclude from a societal ideal.

Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up? is an exhibition that will challenge and inspire. It dares us to look at ourselves in a new light, and to notice how we use constructed identities to mask our inner essence. It inspires us to look beyond consumer culture to express ourselves in an attempt to discover a genuine sense of self. It poses difficult questions to our consumer culture – forcing us to consume or be consumed.

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