Around a narrow corner in Cooper Cole Gallery’s new location, there’s a yellow glow. Follow that glow down a small flight of stairs and you will find transparent yellow vinyl installed across a doorway, through which you can see, but not enter, the small fluorescent-lit room beyond where a seated cement nude sits in contemplation. This is Chloe Seibert’s solo show “Never Give Up on Your Fucking Dreams,” the first Canadian exhibition for the Chicago-based artist.
Seibert, who has no website and offers no artist statement for the exhibition provides only a glimmer of context through the accompanying text:
“12:50 PM, #9 SOUTHBOUND, TWO WOMEN
The only thing God can tell you is shut up
My older sister she in recovery too
And I tell her the same thing
Barely, rarely do I pray in English
Just shut up”
The demoralizing essence of the text stands in stark contrast to the ambitious, naively optimistic message in the title of the exhibit “Never Stop Following Your Fucking Dreams.” The result is a familiar inner debate anyone with a dream can relate to. Within the context of an art exhibit, one can conclude that Seibert, who commonly works with self-portraiture, is exploring the experience of a female emerging artist trying to break into an exclusive and male dominated field.
Seibert has been known to create barriers between the audience and her work, in this case, the yellow vinyl doorway prohibiting us from further interaction with this lonesome figure beyond observation. The yellow vinyl itself can be interpreted as happy or daunting depending on whether you associate it with the figure’s emoji-like head, or something more sinister such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s infamous short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, which has since associated the color yellow with female oppression and psychological turmoil. The closed off white-walled room this figure exists in only reinforces this perspective.
Beyond the vinyl covered doorway the seated larger than life female figure is composed of wire, plaster and the same concrete as the gallery resulting in the effect that the figure has congealed out of the very ground she sits on. The seated figure can be read as the physical incarnation of the artist herself, merged with an art historical narrative she wishes to join, as the voluptuous nude is a trope to be found throughout the canon of Western art.
A few of Seibert’s concrete “expressions” are hung upstairs. While they are not officially apart of this exhibit, they provide further context to Seibert’s tendency towards psychologically explorative self-portraiture. These faces are more humorous than they are scary, yet their features composed of brash scratches into wet cement can’t help but carry with them more sinister emotions of anxiety, anger and frustration.
Utilizing skillful materiality, wit and emotion, Seibert’s work resonates with a familiar feeling of shaky optimism in the face of one’s future. Her resigned female figure and the many faces of one’s conflicting identities manifest in lumpy concrete figures. They inspire sentiment and empathy in the viewer who faces this figure that may or may not merely be a mirror.
Chloe Seibert’s Exhibition “Never Stop Following Your Fucking Dreams” runs at Cooper Cole from July 4 – September 12, 2015