No People, Pets, or Flowers

A one-night exhibition exploring the sentimental, the personal, and the domestic in contemporary art

December 11, 2010 / Private residence / Chicago, IL 


“No people, pets, or flowers” is a common caveat for Flickr groups aiming to minimize redundant photography in the group pool. People, pets, and flowers—subjects of sentiment—are the most common subjects among amateur artists and hobbyists, and are therefore also the most likely to be treated with contempt by so-called serious artists and critics. But if the intimate and the personal are creative springboards for artists in the lowest echelons of the art world, why must they be banned or treated ironically in order to penetrate the inner sanctum; for what could be a better locus of creative, ideological, and aesthetic exploration than something the artist either knows intimately or comes to know intimately through his or her work? And what does this say about what subjects, ideas, materials, and places are privileged terrain for contemporary art?

No People, Pets or Flowers is a one night exhibition that explores two phenomena: the use of the sentimental, the personal, and the domestic in contemporary art, and the experience of viewing artwork ordained for the gallery in an intimate domestic setting. The exhibition will feature four emerging artists who employ intimate or domestic materials, processes, or subjects in their work. Annalee Levin reinterprets ordinary domestic objects “to question their traditional meanings in relation to contemporary issues such as war, greed, and climate change.” Adrienne Tarver works directly from photographs of her family and childhood home to examine aspects of memory and nostalgia. Rebecca George paints domesticated animals with whom she has a personal connection, as they “provide a window into empathy, into compassion, and the interconnectedness of all life.” Finally, David Harper revives old handicrafts such as embroidery, a technique that requires intensive labor and bodily closeness, imbuing the work with an intimacy unknown to mechanically and digitally produced artwork.

No People, Pets, or Flowers, hung in the curator’s home, among her own collections and personal objects, was to be the first site-specific exhibition in a series that will explore what it is to experience art in colloquial spaces. Food and drinks were served. Guests were encouraged to stay and make themselves at home.