Stacey Lee Gee

motherGRANDmother

MFA Show Review

Photos courtesy of the artist.

Stacey Lee Gee

motherGRANDmother

MFA Show Review

University of Iowa 2020

by Lorelei d’Andriole Jones

February 22, 2022

Magic is real and although we may have the language to talk about it, we mostly don’t know what we are saying.

How do we bring the dead back to life? Stacey Lee Gee’s solo MFA show, motherGRANDmother, copes with loss through necromantic experimentation. The installation revolves around objects moved from Gee’s recently departed grandmother’s house in New Jersey to Iowa. I spoke to Gee over the phone, and we reminisced about this show.

Bed as Altar, 2020, Grandmother’s bed frame, mattress, bed linens, lamps, lace, tablecloths, 1980’s wallpaper, scent of Bill Blass’ NUDE and cigarette smoke, 160” x 100” x 28”. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“The show felt like a form of divination... using objects that had been worn. It was scary and wonderful to have someone who was so important that you didn’t want to let them go but her stuff still had her in it. Some of these things were there before her existence and continue to exist in her absence. Who owns who? All of the evidence collected [in the show] is more of the truth than whatever she might have said she was. Using the objects in the show and exploring relationships was a way to know her still and still be in a relationship with her. I could continue to learn things from her and our relationship.”

How do we bring the dead back to life? How do we write about the MFA shows that happened years ago, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic?

One dozen Eggs, 2020, Grandmother’s kitchen table, crochet tablecloth, brass lamp, 12 metal spoons, 12 eggs, scent of Bill Blass’ NUDE and cigarette smoke, 65” x 60” x 60”. Photo courtesy of the artist.

I remember walking into a dimly lit, Eve Drewelowe gallery and being overcome with the sense that I had entered another world. With my head beneath the water, I would stay in this space and feel a need to step out into the bright Visual Arts Building, where friends were gathered around sharing snacks and schmoozing, so that I could take a deep breath, and dive back under the waves to admire a defiance of gravity, explore dreamlike arrangements, or be intimidated by a great alters whose body felt far greater than my own.

There was an energy of defiance as we talked about how difficult the show was during the time the show as up. The traveling, transportation, grieving, lack of grieving, logistics, support, and lack of support. When you left the social space and entered the gallery, you didn’t think about those conversations. It was solemn. Ceremonious. As you breathed the same air as these objects you felt like you were a visitor on an intimate scene. We know magic is real. We can feel the energy from these objects and yet they are totally inaccessible to us.

Different times of day change the show. The shadows and warm light present during the evening are opposite to the daytime light’s stillness. Regardless of lighting, the objects held their power. The contrast between permanence and impermanence are nuanced and complex. Gee’s work is mysterious, and the value of the unknowable cannot be overstated. I cannot google how to understand the complexities of this work. There is no university which holds this knowledge within their archives. There are no consulting firms who can advise you in these matters. In a world where we should all be screaming and dismantling the institutions that are actively destroying our planet, Gee’s work is a fleeting oasis in which we can come, shut up, and feel something.

Marshal McLuhan wrote, “art is anything you can get away with.” Anything can happen in a work of art. Art can be a tool in which we make manifest our fantasies. Art can bring back the dead.

- Lorelei d’Andriole Jones

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