As society addresses and attempts to rectify the rampant sexism plaguing creative as well as commercial communities, social media provides a platform for survivors to voice their experiences. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp create community for the abused, and unity for advocating change. But not all experiences fit neatly into a tweet, and not all pain can be conveyed with a hashtag.
Acknowledging the complexity of abuse empowers the art of Yvette Cummings Arendt. Processing her own experiences and translating them into art, she encourages viewers to bring their own experiences to her work. Her thoughtful handling of the shared pain creates an exchange that blurs the line between artist and viewer.
The exhibit consists of paintings, collage and installations. The painting, When the Magpie Came, depicting black and white birds surrounding two girls in red dresses, seems almost majestic. But as details emerge, the scene quickly becomes a Hitchcockian nightmare. The birds have burst through the canvas, injuring a child and revealing a mysterious red background. The bloody wound on the child’s pale leg mirrors the ripped canvas and its blood-red undercoat.
Right behind When the Magpie Came is a room enveloped in black and white patterns. Stacked is an installation consisting of living room furniture precariously arranged to create something akin to a child’s blanket fort. On entering the space, the viewer will see a red and white blanket underneath the raised couch. Is the blanket a child’s forgotten comfort item, perhaps discarded for adulthood? Or is it hiding a figure hoping to go unnoticed?
Both pieces emphasize black and white patterns with hints of red, but her painting includes an injured child while her installation is figureless. Arendt’s immense talent is not only her technical skill, but also her ability to include the viewer in the creative and cathartic process. The painting acts as the invitation for the viewer to enter the installation and ultimately become the missing figure. It is this dynamic of the viewer stepping inside the installation with one’s own experiences and injuries that completes the artwork and merges artist and viewer.