With Pleasure, an exhibition by TCU’s second year MFA candidates, brings together four artists whose work considers memory as it relates to place. Though Sheryl Anaya, Benjamin Loftis, Madi Ortega, and Sarah Theurer Hunt work in distinctly different styles, their art is connected through theme and their use of sensory elements. Because memory is so strongly linked to smell, sound, and touch, the exhibition has the ability to transport the viewer.
Sheryl Anaya explores the ambiguity of childhood memories through the recreation of objects and food items that are deeply connected to her culture. Her eye-catching wallpaper, colorful ceramic spoons, and sculpted Puerto Rican foods displayed on shelves covered with embroidered napkins works to draw the viewer in. Because it is situated on the floor slightly away from the rest of the installation, it may be easy to miss the narrative text made with stenciled Adobo — a spice blend used frequently in Puerto Rican recipes. But this carefully rendered, deeply personal remembrance sets the stage for the whole installation.
At first glance, Benjamin Loftis’ work feels guarded. Someone visiting the show might initially encounter his work from outside the gallery, where the view through one of the exterior windows is blocked by a plywood wall installed inside. There are images of male figures and text printed on paper and attached to the plywood, but they are obscured when you’re outside the space. Inside the gallery, there are three stacked wooden chairs on a dolly and a recreation of a large gridded frame set against a black backdrop — an object similar to those used in body mechanics studies. In many ways, the objects feel sterile and detached. However, upon closer inspection, on the chair dolly there is a small notebook with a handwritten message which reveals the artist’s personal struggle with body image.
Madi Ortega’s work includes a canvas painted green and dotted with small white specks; a plot of tall, dead grass transported into the gallery that’s being blown by an oscillating fan; and a somewhat hidden birdhouse-like structure on a tall pole. It is clear that these pieces reference a personal and specific place, but little is revealed to the viewer. We are left to look closely and take in the experience. One might recall time spent in quiet rural spaces with few distractions from the natural world.
Sarah Theurer Hunt creates beautifully mysterious and ominous nocturne paintings on a variety of scales. Her smaller oil on linen works include sound components gathered from natural environments, like buzzing insects, blowing wind, and rushing water. It is in her larger scale, mostly black works that the depth of her paintings is realized. The lushly painted green leaves and bushes are sparse, but rather than disappearing into a flat black background, the brushstrokes and textures hint at hidden foliage. In another pairing of works set against a brighter background, the artist experiments with monoprints. Hunt has captured a balance, rendering her spaces as both familiar and foreign.
With Pleasure is on view at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts from January 14 – February 12, 2022.