Growing up on her family’s farm, Renee Shaw spent her summers watching her parents swelter over hot stovetops preserving foods in glass mason jars to suspend the goods at their peak freshness. Years later, Shaw too has generated a wealth of preserved goods, though these are not quite the Smucker’s variety of her youth; rather, one finds doll shoes, hairballs, flowers and other curiosities heaped in the sealed jars, pickled in corn oil. From a distance, the hundreds of jars create a kaleidoscopic effect in the front window of Logsdon 1909, but beauty gives way to bewilderment as one approaches the containers. The curves of the mason jars distort their contents, exaggerating the chaos generated in the presence of such a grand mess, such that close inspection of this installation threatens to overwhelm, and even repulse, viewers. With patience, however, the clutter begins to sort itself out: natural elements, pop-culture pieces and religious icons appear in the brine, and one can suddenly see a marinating snapshot of everyday life, with all its disparate elements jumbled together in volatile coexistence. Shaw’s menagerie of inanimate objects suddenly takes on new life, begging viewers’ examination of stability, social constructs and even nature itself. Those brave enough to take that step nearer will find that what “Preserved” lacks in traditional beauty is more than made up for by its intriguing concept and, well, jarring execution. (Jaime Calder)
Renee Shaw, “Preserved,” shows at Logsdon 1909, 1909 South Halsted, (312)666-8966, through July 25.