The Body Oozes Out of Bounds


An amorphous, flesh-toned blob holds center stage in Jeanne Dunning’s new show of photographs and videos. It’s there in the photograph of a dishwater blonde who stares out impassively as the appalling excrescence comes from around her waist to fill a white ceramic bowl before her. In another picture, it lies heavily across a prostrate woman who strains to get out from under it. A video monitor shows it jiggling on a bed, as for several minutes a woman struggles to dress it in a floral wrap skirt and lime-green top.

Do I need art to remind me of this? Couldn’t I just look in the mirror? Well, there’s more at work here than the visual equivalent of Bridget Jones’s Diary. The nude scrims you pass through to enter the gallery are the first indication that, for the past decade, this artist has been palpating the boundaries of the female body. That dear old blob is an allegory for our uncertain corporeal limits—those points where the body bleeds over into psychological territory. Sometimes it can even appear warm and friendly, as in the photograph of a woman who clutches her lump like a teddy while sleeping.

But the best of these works are mysteriously discomfiting. One video presents a bird’s-eye view of someone (the artist) lying on the floor and donning innumerable pairs of stockings—rolling their pale pink funnels up her enlarged legs and grunting with exertion. When she finally gets on her feet, her reflection in a mirror is a grotesque creature with a camera strapped to her chest. The mild claustrophobia of that everyday gesture—putting on a pair of hosiery—is imbued with the psychological resonance of all our failed efforts at self-perception.

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