They are beaded, embroidered and artfully hung on a gallery wall, but the fact remains: they are panty liners. In the newest exhibition of the Anatomy in the Gallery series, the International Museum of Surgical Science features Laurel Roth’s “Hope Chest,” a potpourri of sanitary napkins bedecked in thread and outlined in plastic beads.
Laughable as it all sounds, Roth’s unexpected medium of choice encourages a look at the commercialization and marketing of female fertility. Her “Birth Control Series,” featuring napkins adorned with the pastel-colored names of the chemicals that make up hormonal contraceptives, is jarringly evocative of the tender Home Sweet Home samplers decking the walls of so many country homemakers. Roth heightens the effect with a “PMS Quilt” of four-letter-words boldly scripted onto her napkins, then crocheted together in blazing red yarn.
The juxtaposition of tender woman-craft and comparably shocking vulgarity is not a new theme—greeting cards with “Happy F—ing Birthday!” can be found on Etsy for as little as four dollars a pop. But Roth’s use of alternative media truly is a surprise, and her wry incorporation of the chemicals women so willingly pump into their bodies imparts an air of concerned warning, leaving women to wonder just how their supposedly delicate bodies can handle what they themselves have subjected them to. (Jaime Calder)
Through April 17 at the International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 North Lake Shore, (312)642-6502