"Are You Listening to Me?" @TTU Satellite Gallery

Opening in the Texas Tech Satellite Gallery last week was "Are You Listening to Me?”, the group exhibition by Lindsey Maestri and Cody Arnall. They are married, they have different last names, they work in separate studios, and they want you to know that. They spend the entirety of the exhibition statement clarifying the point. To what end, though? The question to which they address their ‘collaboration’ (if such it can be called—they work in separate studios- more on this later) in this exhibition is how the works will converse in a space together. Maestri’s work strikes me as what could be called domestic surrealism. Her objects (mostly wall-hanging, but some free-standing) resemble and in many cases are made of materials to be found in the home—yarn, beads, felt, furniture-wood—but assembled into forms quite foreign to what their components alone would suggest.

“Matching Bath Robes” is two elongated crocheted fabric forms, seamlessly integrated with decorative cord and wooden bannister heads. They are a hallucinated assemblage of household items far-enough removed from an attributable purpose as to present solely as sculpture. Arnall’s work, unsurprisingly, is so different as to seem unrelated. It seems to concern death in the way a reliquary concerns miracles: as a showcase interested as much in variety and presentation as in meditation on the thing itself. “Long Road to No Great Place” projects an Astroturf-framed dead bobcat on a platform, the cat and its deathbed isolated from any cause or decomposition; similarly “Don’t Know About You But I’m Not Going Down With the Ship” is a floating platform of concrete holding a number of dead worms under a layer of plexiglass and lit from above.

While the work of each artist is strong and holds its own, what strikes me most about the exhibition is their manner of collaboration. They suggest that the subject of the exhibition is the conversation among the works. The reasons they shouldn’t converse at all (and that they do) is by far more remarkable. Collaboration among artists universally implies direct collaboration—what materials to use, theme to address, size to build in; Maestri and Arnall have collaborated here by doing every single thing collaboratively except that. They live together, work together (they both teach at Texas Tech), travel together, and help organize the same art collective. What they do not do is collaborate on the art itself; they’ve collaborated in negative, and in so doing have assembled something radical. The dialogue of their work proceeds out of the life they share, not the studio time. Connection like this is as worth thinking about as direct collaboration, and is the more interesting because I’ve never seen something like it.

*The author's opinions are his own. Photos courtesy of Madeline Hensler.

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