Jessica Labatte is knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm. What exactly does this look like? A multidisciplinary exhibition consisting of photographic series, pillowy sculptures, video, all-around wallpaper and found materials like feathers, pompoms, cocktail umbrellas and flower stems—all bringing to life a colorful ensemble where bright pink, green, yellow and purple collide.
What does it feel like? A lot! The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Diane Ackerman’s poem “Diffraction (for Carl Sagan)” and speaks to the emotional spectrum of inwardness and expansiveness, overwhelming joy and deep sadness experienced by Labatte during the pandemic. Using natural and domestic objects and shedding light onto household and care-taking routines as magnified by the solitude and disconnect that challenging time posed, the Chicago-based photographer addresses everyday life, play, intimacy and resilience.
Her photographs exist between the realistic and the fantastical. The lines between parenthood and artistic practice, home and studio, the material and the abstract blur. Between working from home and the birth of her second child, Labatte has learned to embrace life’s highs and lows. That constant, the dynamic flow of emotions, has led her to develop a mindful awareness, apparent in her latest work. “Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm,” on view at Western Exhibitions, reflects all that. Floral still-lifes, colorful photographic abstractions and corners filled with floor sculpture that one has to kneel to carefully examine, contribute to creating a shared experience—the artist’s way to connect with her children, the viewer, the community and the world.
Seeing Labatte’s work reflected through the pandemic illuminates despair and hope, stillness and growth. Light, color and texture add a layer to the temporal whirlwind living through that time has been. And space and time have served their purpose: to allow her to contemplate, to process, create and ultimately grow. (Vasia Rigou)
“Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm” is on view at Western Exhibitions, 1709 West Chicago, through October 29.