In the Mudd

Mandy Burgess

Opening April 27, the Mudd Gallery showcased the sculptural work of artist Summer Zickefoose in the show “Remaining Cloth,” a series of sixteen pieces that, at first glance, appear to be little more than a number of haphazardly hung dishcloths.
Upon closer inspection, the pieces lining the walls are revealed to be plaster-infused handmade cotton towels left to stiffen in the positions in which they were hung.
The sixteen pieces are aligned in a single row that follows the walls of the gallery. As Zickefoose says, “Their repetition suggests a series of repeated actions or days, a monotonous chore completed, but yet their changing forms defy that monotony.”
Each form is different in response to the manner in and emotion with which they were handled, allowing the towels to not only reference but also become “that frozen action or moment, captured in forms that would not last,” says Zickefoose.
Despite each towel’s presence as a discrete entity, they retain what Zickefoose calls “the residue of time,” the suggestions of the actions that led to the towel’s existence as it is currently seen.
In contemplating each piece, the viewer can speculate on the activity the towel may have been used for in addition to the manner in which it was hung, whether in care, haste or indifference. The hand is directly evident in the work, and in such a sense reflects the Abstract Expressionist notions of product recording process.
Rather than the abstraction of Pollock or de Kooning’s paintings, however, Zickefoose’s pieces conjure up many more personally identifiable images and associations. Viewers are immediately struck by the domestic connotations the pieces hold, augmenting the seemingly commonplace objects with a rich background created, in part, by the individual’s own experience.
Zickefoose has made a habit of accentuating the ordinary and elevating its status by infusing it with new meaning. She says that she might “transform an object, such as a wooden spoon into a porcelain spoon, to add a different perspective to how that spoon may be used.” Taking household objects from the commonplace to the realm of the precious enriches it with new meaning, purpose and consideration, and at the same time causes the viewer to reimagine and reexperience the past.
The pieces’ success lies in that they are indicative of the commonplace but speak to the greater content of shared human experience, both able to be disregarded as mass-produced objects but also able to be appreciated as something familiar. It is inherently dangerous to work with a subject that can be overlooked by the undiscerning, as there is often a fine line between the ability to see subtle works as something more or less than they immediately appear.
Zickefoose cites the familiarity of and common experience involved in the subject matter as a likely reason for the theft of one of her pieces, which marred the success of the show and caused its early closing.