She said, he said
Like “His” and “Hers” embroidered bath towels, Jeanne Jo and Jake Lee-High’s combined art show, Dialogue/ Monologue, is a curious example of domesticity and partnership. It contrasts one female’s romanticism and optimism with her boyfriend’s impressions of isolation and voyeurism. It’s a peculiarly real juxtaposition of girl as Suzy Homemaker and boy as Sad Sam.
The main gallery of Bleulion Artspace is a walk-in closet for Jo’s collection of sweaters. The sweaters come in sets of two, sewn together in places that force the wearers to take various cozy positions. It’s conceptual performance art where viewers are encouraged to be doers. The 21 sweater sets have such titles as “Sweaters for Loving Words,” “Sweaters for Formal Dancing” and “Sweaters for a Hug from Behind.”
“The idea comes from being the wife figure in a two-person relationship for the first time,” Jo, a substitute teacher, says. “It’s about what it means to have to mediate your relationship.”
Jo’s more thought-provoking piece is a miniature table with two chairs on one side. There’s a candle on the table and what looks like pigs-in-a-blanket on doll-sized dinner-plates. Everything from the silverware to the underside of the table has a chalkboard surface, upon which is scrawled an essay by African-American Marxist feminist Angela Davis. This piece is a more sardonic look at familiar relationships. It touches upon power issues, questioning who is the authority figure in marriage.
The wait to view Lee-High’s piece (about 25 minutes on opening night) heightened everybody’s curiosity. The piece is intended for one viewer at a time, and it’s the first time Bleulion has had a show in its basement. A video camera upstairs transmits images onto the basement wall. People upstairs don’t know they’re being watched until they’ve been downstairs. The creepiest part is the 11 life-sized molds of Lee-High sitting in desks watching the broadcast with you. The viewer’s desk is in the back row; one of the casts in the front row looks back at it.
“It’s really just two different ways of looking at life,” Lee-High says. “My way is kind of depressing. I’m much more introverted, much more in my own head. … Hopefully, [people] experience what I picture myself going through.”
Lee-High’s piece is performance art by the viewer on a more complex level than Jo’s. Jo’s sweaters involve a simple and external level of audience participation, spurring jokes and laughs along with mild discomfort over issues of personal space. Lee-High’s piece compels viewers to think about alienation and how comfortable they are with themselves. Jo’s work is cute and silly verging on unnerving, while Lee-High’s effort is unnerving verging on perverse. The dichotomy creates an interesting narrative and perhaps a disturbingly realistic peek into the relationship between the artists.
“I don’t understand how she looks at art, and I don’t think she understands how I look at art,” Lee-High says. “Looking at her art helps me understand how she looks at life.”
Jo demonstrates a need for intimate relationships, while Lee-High rejects the possibility of absolute intimacy. Simply put, a psychologist could have a field day with these two.