Bobbi Meier Exhibit: Imperfect Rituals

Bobbi Meier Exhibit: Imperfect Rituals

Riverside Art Center
Freeark Gallery
32 E. Quincy St.
Riverside, IL
January 8 – February 18
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 8, 3 – 6 pm
On View: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 1 – 5 pm
Artist Talk and Closing Reception: Saturday, February 18, 2 pm

He drew a circle that shut me out—

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him in!

—Edwin Markam

Circles, the universal symbol representing notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, The Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness. More common everyday usage of ‘the inner circle’ or the family circle helps to bring this experience under the proverbial magnifying glass as a range of emotions in response to daily life events are experienced in close proximity. These expansive inquiries along with the intimate experience of family dinners are at the core of Meier’s body of work, Imperfect Rituals.

Beginning with circular castaway pieces of needlepointed fabric, Meier adorns, stitches, and manipulates each piece, as she remembers emotional experiences encountered during family dinners. Using her “Sunday Dinners” tapestries as a springboard for further inquiry at her Kohler residency, Meier slip-cast organic fabric shapes into porcelain objects, creating wall sculptures that rein in the emotion found in her soft fabric pieces, now replaced with hard edged frames and slick, shiny, surfaces. The interiors of her soft sculptures, once hidden, are now revealed becoming hard and contained. In the final and third iteration of this deep dive into family dynamics, “Centerpieces for Matriarchs”, Meier places broken and abstract organ-like porcelain objects inside circular Kohler vessel sinks, now used as bowls, giving each piece a safe place to dwell. Soft to hard, hard to soft, there is a continual search for balance and perfection, placed inside the metaphorical family circle for safekeeping.

—Judith Mullen

I create abstract objects as repositories of human emotion. The home-like architecture of the Freeark gallery provides a fitting environment for my installation. On display are repurposed, needlework portraits, sculptural objects of porcelain and fabric, invented tchotchkes, drawings, interrupted domestic furniture, and the muted sounds of family gatherings. I use these materials as a foundation for re-invention of the decor of my childhood home and as a reflection of the labors of my mother and grandmother. The installation is imbued with emotional reactions to the break in personal, social, and political rituals of the past six years.

A litany of human emotions—longing, anger, fear, sadness, humor, frustration, desire, embarrassment, and the experiences that propel these feelings—are on my mind as I produce my work. I am interested in the connection between the meaning that is inherently present in domestic materials and their relationship to body and memory. At my Kohler residency in 2019, I translated the tactility of spandex and pantyhose from soft to hard through the porcelain slip-casting process, which allowed the interior of the soft sculptures to be revealed in a new skin and become two bodies of work: Family Portraits and Centerpieces for Matriarchs. These parallel threads of porcelain objects became a further development of the tapestry portraits: Sunday Dinners. In these series, abstracted forms are stand-ins for family dynamics, feelings and thoughts that lie beneath the surface and are present on the surface. Buttoned-up emotions, secrets, and misunderstandings compete for attention in our search for perfection.

Rituals of daily living shifted dramatically in our life when our daughter and her family of 4 moved in with us in our two-bedroom home during the early days of the pandemic. Two children under age three became the driving force in rituals of bathing, eating, working, exercising and relaxing. Making art was practically non existent. Snippets of alone time became stolen moments to create and listen to the family slowly waking during early morning solitude. This nearly year-long communal living experience is the source for the sound installation Listening: Family Shadows.

Imperfect Rituals emphasizes our fraught connections in families. What we choose to reveal and what we do not, our perceived flaws, the feelings we hide and the thoughts that remain unspoken. Through aggressive and cathartic manipulation of domestic materials, I am expressing the complexity of lived experiences, the messiness of relationships, and the fragility of our bodies.

—Bobbi Meier