How is it that the word “healing” can carry the weight of so many others? There is pain to be healed from, memory to be suppressed and patience required to alleviate the mess of feelings. Healing is exhausting. In her exhibition “Watch Your Step,” artist and activist Cheryl Pope starts the conversation in order to mitigate the heartbreak we didn’t know, or didn’t imagine, we had.
The work is rich in metaphor when it comes to process, every intricacy looks effortless. The details, however, are beside the point. My hands and back hurt just thinking of the hours that went into each piece. That sense of shared pain is no coincidence. On the opening night of the exhibition, Pope also held an hours-long performance scrubbing the sidewalk in front of the gallery while collaborator Lady Lake Shore Drive sang beside her. The artist routinely walked through the gallery reception to get more water and go back to work, reminding the audience that there is an equal labor in the act of looking at and looking away.
While Pope scrubbed outside, the motif of water recurred in the video and photographic works, “His Eyes Were Focused On The Middle Distance” (2016) and “The Night Was Filled With The Human Fear Of Drowning” (2016). The sound and sculpture installation “Caught A Chill” (2016) is comprised of six bird cages with yarn wrapping the wire frame and miniature music boxes placed inside that emit solfeggio frequencies. The six tones are thought to cure ailments like past trauma, expression and communication, and awakening intuition; played simultaneously, they replicate a Gregorian chant.
Other sculptural, video and printed works are presented in a narrative of loss for the unattainable. The exhibition is a powerful meditation that curiously circumvents silence. There are gestures and moments that are easy to walk past and not fully embrace, but, when confronted with the reality and weight of the work, one remembers that the conversation is just beginning. (Brit Barton)
Through December 23 at Monique Meloche Gallery, 2154 West Division