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Review: Christa Donner/Three Walls

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It’s enough to walk through the checkout line at the supermarket to know what Christa Donner is up against in her solo exhibition, “Re:Production,” at Three Walls. For all the celebrity pregnancy gossip, advice about maternity, and undue publicity about fertility, there are surprisingly few artists in recent memory who approach the subject of pregnancy on its own terms—as a personal and biological process.

Feminist art historically individualizes, rather than generalizes, the woes and joys of the female body. Donner’s artist books, such as “Tunnel Tummy” and “Disease Diary,” employ the issues of the body to illustrate narrative accounts of experiences that many of us leave only in the hands of doctors.

Donner’s most shocking and ingenuous move in “Re:Production” is an attempt to disassociate maternity from its strictly female context by introducing symbolism from the animal kingdom. Human sexuality, when viewed alongside alternative mating behaviors found in species like the Surinam toad or slipper limpet, shows there’s no “unnatural” way to get it done. The artist’s collaborative animation with biologist Andrew Yang injects a little humor into larger questions of gender identification by borrowing the sober language of animal documentaries.

In vibrant murals and drawings, colorful organs and fetuses deck the walls in a montage of fiction and biology. Subjects such as egg donation, hyperthyroidism, infertility, and adoption are treated with honest irreverence and enthusiasm to get at the heart of the matter. (Beatrice Smigasiewicz)

Through February 13 at Three Walls, 119 N. Peoria St. The artist will give a talk on January 29 at 6pm.

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