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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wendy Osher at Fe Gallery

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 9:56 AM

It's unfair to single out just one piece in Fe Gallery's impressive In the Making: 250 Years, 250 Artists (which closed Jan. 10). The sheer scope and massing of the exhibit -- 250 (mostly) recent artworks by an equal number of local artists, hung salon-style on the Lawrenceville storefront space's walls -- all but precludes it. But I will mention one work which, though it might easily be overlooked, instantly struck me as potent.

Wendy Osher's "Fruit for All Seasons" consists of 20 orange skins arranged in a small grid. The skins, long aged to that rust color to which dessicated orange peels are fated, had been sewn back into spheres, but in a very particular way. These skins were arranged to permit gaps through which blossomed tumor-like masses of sickly pink polystyrene (like packing material, or foam insulation). The stitches, meanwhile, were in threads of deep red -- an aesthetic complement to the skins themselves, but also, when combined with the template of each leathery peel, suggestive of a baseball.

Osher's previous work, widely exhibited around town, often deals with our regard and disregard of nature. But this piece communicated to me more strongly than any of the others I'd seen. With the "oranges" embodying a rather pathetic human attempt to reconstitute, even reanimate the natural world, "Fruit for All Seasons" intimates warnings about tampering with nature in general, and about things like bio-engineering in particular.

And yes, I'm aware that most agricultural crops are the result of human-guided cross-breeding. But it's self-evident that initiating plant sex is a much more benign sort of intrusion than putting fish genes in tomatoes, say -- or polystyrene genes in citrus sprouts. Osher's shrivelled, malformed little baseballs manque are like seed pods stuffed with sterile faux flesh. With them, she viscerally suggests that with such techno-tampering -- in trying to remake the world to our ends -- we not only destroy our materials, but lessen ourselves as well.

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