R-E-S-P-E-C-T yourself

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I want to recommend two shows now at the end of their runs, the group photography show, “Self-Centered,” at Creative Artists Network (up through Dec. 4) and Jessica Doyle’s installation “Exist” at Project Room (through Dec. 5).

Both exhibits are body-focussed and both deal with slippery issues of selfhood — self-image, self-loathing, self-loss, things that often get pigeon-holded as womens’ issues but are really more universal.

Jessica Doyle’s installation — wall drawings, video projection, potted plants and a little garden fountain — weaves together the fact and fiction of a life. There’s myth-making in Doyle’s wall drawings, which lent a kind of Lascaux cave strangeness. (images above and left are details of Doyle’s wall drawings) As for the video, (in which you see what looks like home movies of the artist and her baby daughter growing up), it felt like truth.

The total package is a lovely acceptance of self — foibles, aggrandizement and all.

Meanwhile at CAN, the more body-oriented of the two exhibits, color photography does some mythmaking of its own in the hands of out-of-towners, Kelli Connell (Texas), Jen Davis (Chicago) and the team of Robin Lasser and Kathryn Sylva (California)

Davis and Connell both work magic with self-portraits. Connell, who twins herself and appears as both halves of a couple in scenes of domestic intimacy, makes the more startling work. (image right above is Connell’s “Road Stop”) Her close-cropped compositions — some taken from a birds-eye view — are identity conundrums that reverberate with broader issues of surveillance, duplicity and gender stereotyping. Cindy Sherman must be an influence.

Davis, a plus-sized artist who poses herself alone or with another woman, treads on the concept of otherness and pulls it off nicely in images that ache with loneliness. (image left is Davis’s “Primping”)

On the other hand I found works by Robin Lasser and Kathryn Sylva, which pair images of women with quotes from patients with eating disorders little more than accomplished advertising posters, which is, I think what they were made for — an educational awareness program for the public. (image above is “Andrea” by Lasser and Sylva)

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