“Offerings Somatic” on Display at Thacher Gallery
Write down a heartbreak, big or small. Put the paper in the bowl of water, take a deep breath, listen to the soundscape of rainfall, broken up by gently plucked strings and speech. Watch your heartbreak dissolve. In her installation, artist Chris Evans invites us to heal and reflect by providing an altar “to create a therapeutic moment through an evocative and collaborative ritual,” as written on the wall sign alongside her piece, “Transmuting Heartbreak.”
Thacher Gallery’s current exhibition, “Offerings Somatic — the body as a substance of ritual,” features Evans’ interactive installation along with the work of artists Evelyn Leder, Tossie Long, and Midori. Somatic, meaning related to the body, refers to the usage of the body in the artists’ works. The collection is a multi-sensory experience that incorporates audio, video, and performance elements.
“Offerings Somatic,” which opened Nov. 30, 2023, was curated by USF’s Curatorial Practicum class throughout the fall 2023 semester, led by USF Professor Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen. While Evans’ artistic offering relates to matters of the heart, each of the four Bay Area artists featured in the exhibition explore themes surrounding rituals and bodies — their own and others.
For Grammy-nominated artist Tossie Long, her featured works center the experiences of Black communities, particularly those who, according to the installation placard, have been “displaced due to ongoing gentrification and systematic removal from their homes.” One of her most striking pieces titled “Listen to the Robes | voices” features Baptist church choir robes suspended from the ceiling. According to MacFadyen, the majority of the featured churches still exist, “but their choirs have suffered from extreme attrition as the Black population rapidly declines [in San Francisco.]” Past the suspended robes stands a collection of items from the displayed churches and communities, preserving their experiences and history. Encased in glass boxes are photos accompanied by a variety of personal belongings — a splayed out wallet, a “How-to-do-It House Wiring Guide,” and a recipe book. These items were contributed by Long and two Baptist churches, among others.
Centered in the Gallery, Midori’s large performance art piece was created on-site at the exhibition’s opening. This piece was made with internationally recognized suspension artist and frequent collaborator Samar, who is seen in the videographed performance piece. Samar, bound with tree limbs and leaves, was doused with ink, and from there created additional pieces through the impressions the body ink would leave on a large canvas. In her work, Midori frequently includes an “innovative use of rope,” not as bondage, “but as a medium resonating with folk and craft,” as described in her artist statement.
Also in the gallery is “The Parts” by Evelyn Leder. With illuminated body parts contrasting a black background, pieces of “The Parts” can be displayed in any order. Here, a picture of a torso is lined up with a different person’s legs, and someone’s back and arms appear where the legs of another person should be.
MacFadyen worked closely with their class to come up with the current display.“[Leder] said they didn’t want to have anything to do with the actual selection or orientation or anything,” said MacFadyen. “That’s the whole point, allowing the folks who are either purchasing or curating the works to be able to play with them, almost like puzzle pieces.”
“Offerings Somatic” is on display until Feb. 18 with a pop-up event happening on Feb. 15 from 11:45am-12:45pm. According to Gallery Director Glori Simmons, the event centers Black art and encourages Black students, staff, and faculty to bring their own work. The theme is “Being Black at USF,” and Tossie Long will attend.
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