Kerry Pacillio Explores The Dark Side of Maternity In Her New Cohn Drennan Gallery Exhibition


The relationship we share with our mother largely defines how we live in the world.
She is who first fills your lungs with air and can later be the one to smother us. Artists, writers, and serial killers have passionately illustrated this fact throughout history. Kerry Pacillio presents us with this symbiotic relationship in her compelling new installation experiment, "Mother".

The exhibition explores women's roles in human development, as well as the expectations and limitations of motherhood, and to do so Pacillio draws inspiration from unlikely sources. She pulls from external, common threads like the films Carrie, Grey Gardens, and Pink Flamingos as well as '80s alternative rock.

The show holds court in gallery A, while "Blair Blayre" fills the larger space at Cohn Drennan Contemporary. Step inside the smaller studio and you're greeted by a suspended form, it is in the shape of a woman clothed in a conservative blue dress complete with jacket; the sort of outfit you could imagine your Republican grandmother wearing. A celebration of flowers bouquet through the top, serving as the head. Then, this grotesque collection of long pink balloons protrudes from underneath the vintage garment. The balloons seem to taunt you with their ugliness.

Step further into the stark room. The space is not cluttered. Taking it in, you begin to understand the disciplined editing provided by the artist. She allows only a minimal amount of objects, just enough to provoke you.

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There is a video playing on the TV positioned against the wall facing you. The worn wooden chair immediately to your left is paired with wooden crutches -- you begin to feel guilted into this story of helplessness and dependency. A cigarette has been extinguished in a wad of gum on the wall; it appears to have been put out as soon as it was lit. There's familiar music playing, which adds to the space's dark emotionality.

The brilliance of Picillio's work resides here, where narrative is stripped down and given voice through objects, video production, and music. Pacillio selected Pink Floyd's, 'Don't Leave Me Now' as the score of her installation. She modified the track, slowing it down, inviting all those dark and scary places to well up inside of you.

A silent video plays on the TV; on it is a young women in a state of celebration. You think, "okay, we're good." Then, there's a shift. You hear the piano pick up pace on the soundtrack and get louder, faster until its momentum is like that of a wave crashing. BOOM! Look to the video: The women on the screen isn't celebrating anymore. You cannot hear what she's saying; all you can do is watch her mouth move. And there you stand: fixated on a silent film and music, held captive.

The questions begin. Did her initial celebration involve entering motherhood? The woman changes, she is no longer young, now she is old, fat, and appearing sinister. She is the same woman, but transformed and full of expression, sitting in a chair as she triples in size, rocking and chewing and rocking. The woman's emotions go from transfixed staring, to indulgence and then dark. She isn't a nice woman. You must get out.

Pacillio didn't base the show on her own life; she assures us that she had a healthy childhood and her mother was loving and supportive. But she likes flirting with darker concepts, like she does here, in the imaginary world she's presented at Cohn Drennan. "Fear keeps me from getting too complacent and comfortable," explained Pacillio. Stay scared, lady. We like you this way. "Mother" is on display through April 28th at Cohn Drennan Contemporay.


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