Inside the Spider’s Body

Solo Exhibition Curated by Rachel Adams, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Dec 10th  2020- April 24th 2021 


The title for the show was taken from a 1971 poem by Adrienne Rich titled ‘Incipience’ from her book titled ‘Diving into the Wreck’. The poem begins:


To live, to lie awake

Under scarred plaster

While ice is forming over the earth

At an hour when nothing can be done

To further any decision


To know the composing of the thread

Inside the spider’s body

First atoms of the web

Visible tomorrow


To feel the fiery future

of every matchstick in the kitchen


This idea of stasis, of dreaming of change and action, of the first stirrings of transformation really resonated with the beginnings of this year under lockdown. But while the poem begins with a very intimate, personal musing on creation and transformation, it ends by considering the larger collective experience of women working to change their circumstances, to voice their opinions and stories. The last lines read:


A man is asleep in the next room

He has spent a whole day

Standing, throwing stones into the black pool

Which keeps its blackness

Outside the frame of his dream we are stumbling up the hill

Hand in hand, stumbling and guiding each other

Over the scarred volcanic rock.


The themes of this body of work are realized through a cycle of making and unmaking. Of physically building up and tearing down, of constructing and deconstructing events that rely on an ever-changing configuration of characters and sets, weaving together the personal, political and historical.  Like most of my work, this show presents an interrelated, transmutable collection of objects, whose meaning is determined by their relationship to each other. Each work becomes as Merleau-Ponty says a mirror of all others’.


I read somewhere that a spider sometimes eats her web to replenish her supply of silk. I have an impulse in my work to sacrifice preciousness and stability in service of an ongoing creative cycle of destruction and renewal. 


Subject matters in this show are wide ranging and include the historic scenic French wallpaper depicting the American Revolution installed in the Diplomatic Reception room at the White House, experiences growing up in a Transcendental Meditation community in Iowa, the life of the artist Joan Brown, ‘Pando’-a stand of quaking aspen trees considered to be one of the largest and oldest living organisms on earth, and the writings of Merleau-Ponty.


Threaded through all of my work is an interest in the intersection between painting and performance, figure and ground, and the depiction of women’s bodies in ways that challenge the Western Art Cannon and women’s position in society more broadly. The show included collaborative performances with Laeree Lara and David Hurlin.



Courtesy Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE. Photos: Colin Conces. ©Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

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