A Review of “Live to Tell” an exhibition featuring Lily DeSaussure and Graham Childs
By Lana Stephens
The Meat Markey gallery in Washington’s Dupont circle was busting at the seams on Friday night. The opening featured two exhibitions: “Live to Tell” by Lily DeSaussure and Graham Childs and “Naturing” by Sangbin Im and April Behnke. People navigated like rats through corridors and simulated rooms that seemed to both welcome and expel visitors.
I’m referring to an installation by DeSaussure and Childs. The white-washed interior within the gallery’s front room greets you as you enter the space. One must enter through a hanging door frame that places you in what appears to be a living room. The room is complete with crown molding and seven hanging windows, stripped bare of any curtains or blinds. The windows act as a barrier in place of actual walls from the rest of the gallery. An armature encloses the room forming a frame around invisible “open” walls. The room is decorated with household items and furniture. Dolphin figurines and frames adorn the shelves of a bookcase while a round dining room table inhabits the corner of the room. A deer head holds his perch high above, regally watching over the visitors that come and go, their skin tones and colorful jackets and scarves interrupting the stark whiteness of the room.
This is starting to sound a bit like a chapter I read from “Chromophobia,” where the author David Batchelor describes his experience of entering an entirely white home. He feels subordinate to the “aggressive” whiteness that seems insulted by his mere presence. I suppose there was a sort of aura to the installation room in the gallery, though I wish it were stronger. I felt odd being in the room, a bit out of place amongst the stark tranquility. I sucked in my breath when a gallery-goer spilled his beer on the floor of the room. His clumsiness was rendered obscene in the “pure” space.
I began coming up with stories in my head of how or why a room could end up like this. Perhaps the tenants fled, abandoning the now post-apocalyptic scene, smothered in white ash. The tea cups left on the table give it an eerie feeling, a feeling I wish was carried throughout the rest of the room. I wish there was white milk in the cups and white food on the table. I wish there were a blank newspaper folded on a chair. The white-washed plants are a nice touch however. The dolphin figurines bothered me though. There was something too generic about them. Maybe it’s because I hail from a tourist “beach” town where tacky sea life seems to invade every once respectable home. I suppose I wanted the white objects to be more personal so that the feeling of my intrusion was heightened to an uncomfortable state.
The room is not only an “environment,” it serves as an exhibition space from DeSaussure’s stitched drawings that hang, suspended in air on one side of the room. The pieces on display play a dual role; 1) decorating the domestic interior and 2) functioning as works of art that are for sale. Her work consists of multi-figural stitched compositions on paper. Lily uses embroidery floss in a painstaking process that it not only laborious, but requires quite a bit of skill, or craft. She stitches each mark, sometimes overlapping to create a more “worked,” layered surface. The compositions consist of what seems to be amiable past times between old friends and lovers. My only criticism of the three large stitched compositions is that they are not white on white. I realize white thread on white paper would be difficult to see, but the experience of being in a totally white room is also quite difficult. Call me biased, but I too, like the homeowners in Batchelor’s novel, am coming down with Chromophobia.
"Live to Tell" is on view at Meat Market Gallery until March 2nd.