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Surreal icons and public bathrooms
Art meets performance at Non-Fiction show
Jane Winfield's 'Radial Stitch' details 'actions rather than objects.'

Lauren Flotte is president of the board of directors of Art Rise Savannah.

Art sometimes asks artists and viewers to be enthusiastically fearless. Bold enough to simply experience, contemplate, and discuss, without expectation.

One of my favorite galleries in Savannah, Non-Fiction Gallery, delivers work that does just that.

I love this space because the art never talks at me; rather it invites my own conclusions, prompting more questions, then revelations, and so on.

I suddenly realize I am talking with the art. It’s a lively discussion of what could be.

Non-Fiction’s latest exhibition “Lowlife,” featuring works by SCAD alumni Alessandra Hoshor and Jane Winfield, was exemplary of this delicious dialogue.

The pair embodies the artist as explorer. They find themselves in a darkened space, curious and unafraid of the contradictions they may encounter, slowing feeling the walls, intuitively and joyfully mapping the bounds.

“Both of us do fun space, playful space,” Winfield says.

Winfield considers visually incongruent spaces, the heavy vs. light, matte vs. sheen. Her mischievously aggressive compositions reflect the struggle behind the brain’s adapted ability to reconcile the illogical.

“I’m always thinking about confusing space, things that happen on a regular day that aren’t regular, but we just go with. Where shadows actually look as dark as if they could be made of something heavy, or where the building that’s casting the shadow looks lighter than the shadow itself.”

She uses latex house paint and other industrial materials to create lush fields of color and frustrated marks that feud on the canvas. “I usually think of actions rather than objects,” Winfield says.

While the unexpected colors catch attention, it’s the topography that drew me closer. Under each composition are numerous other paintings, creating a visible history.

“I think history is really detrimental to people,” Winfield says, a thought possibly influenced by her interest in how neurological history streamlines perception.

“It’s scary to think that you don’t see these things. It pulls the rug out from under you.”

For this exhibition, Hoshor explores the symbols and tools of the digital frontier. She presented screen-prints, paintings, digital projections, and a performance piece, all layering “different meaning systems in almost an absurd way,” as she describes.

Her compositions come from digital collages of cell phone pictures, stock images, and even her own paintings and performance stills.

“It’s almost like if you opened up a folder in your computer and were working on the ground collaging with it. You have all this stuff, and then the Internet. I’m just being really open and honest about using everything at my disposal.”

Hoshor calls attention to the overwhelming number of images we encounter daily and the tools that manipulate pixel-based spaces.

The prints are like glitchy web pages, minus the context of words. Hoshor smears and repeats images, leaving unfinished edges and digital artifacts. I felt like I was traveling through the digital universe, encountering, as she calls them, “surreal icons” that float un-tethered to the page.

“I like to basically create a mesh environment, where there are enough different meaning systems that you can draw your own narrative through all of the pieces,” she says.

In past performance pieces, Hoshor turned the everyday on its head and used costumes to personify archetypes. For her performance this past Sunday, Hoshor donned a blonde wig and a clear plastic rain suit that covered her bra and underwear. She entered a projected bathroom space, tightly holding a life vest.

A violinist in a poncho stood to the side, playing a beautiful, melodramatic composition while Hoshor struggled on stage, crawling confused, embracing the life jacket, pounding against bubble wrap, squirting herself in the face with plastic water guns, sobbing, and blow-drying the ‘tears.’

The performance was both tragic and funny, the same tension found in the sad clown trope. Bathrooms, especially public bathrooms, reoccur throughout all of Hoshor’s work. “It’s a personal space. It’s intimate,” she says.

Yet the public bathroom is a strange realm, where the intimate collides with the communal. In this way, the performance spoke to me about the desire for true emotional clarity and release in the face of public expectations and reactions, a conflict that occurs in real life, online, and in the media.

Like the rest of “Lowlife,” Hoshor’s performance was evocative and courageously inquisitive.

While pigments on a surface can speak volumes, viewing art in progress turns art into experience. It allows both the audience and the artist to put aside their inhibitions and fearlessly explore.

I, for one, crave more of this. Thankfully there are spaces like Non-Fiction that champion complex dialogues between art and audiences, and present art performances and installations that bring the unexpected to our charming Southern city.

Hoshor (left) and Winfield share a 'delicious dialogue' at their shared show, 'Lowlife,' currently hanging at Non-Fiction Gallery.