- "Kitchen Garden" by Judith Klausner
What's a melting popsicle doing in an art exhibit? And is that a piece of moldy bread? What's that freaky growth in the corner? To Judith Klausner, it's all art.
In an exhibit titled "(de)composed" at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, the Massachusetts artist presents a collection of items that make you look twice — and look again. The three pieces noted above are titled "Sweet on You," "Microorganized II" and "If These Walls Could Talk," respectively. Other entries include a pigeon frozen in the act of eating discarded bread and cheese on the floor, a potato whose "eyes" have morphed into pink sprouts, tiny ants clustered around spilled jam on a kitchen counter, silverfish devouring a book page — you get the idea.
Klausner has made every bit of these works by hand. "I like the idea of spending hours meticulously crafting something that most people think of as ruined," she writes in an artist statement. But when something goes bad, it turns into something new, she observes. Klausner captures that transformation with simple materials: clay, flocking, chalk pastel pigment, resin. The results are remarkably realistic.
Once viewers register what these objects are, they might wonder why the artist makes them.
Klausner doesn't just have a dark sense of humor, nor is she particularly obsessed with death and destruction. What this body of work reflects, for her, isn't immediately evident to gallerygoers, but her statement offers a surprising and deeply personal explanation.
"This series reflects my own journey to reframe my life as a disabled person," Klausner writes. "I spent a decade only seeing the ways that my life hadn't turned out how I had expected it to, and seeing those discrepancies as failures. It has only been by readjusting my lens that I have learned to appreciate the life I do have."
Finally, the artist adds, she's allowing herself to be happy.
But Klausner's interest in what many of us ignore — or even find repellent — isn't new. According to a gallery description and her website, she earned a degree in studio art from Wesleyan University in 2007 "after constructing her thesis primarily out of insects."
Since then, Klausner has looked to her immediate surroundings for inspiration. The description continues, "Her experience of invisible disability and chronic pain plays an integral role in how she views the world and creates art."
The artworks in "(de)composed" open our eyes to phenomena we might not normally see, or want to. Klausner hopes they might also encourage viewers, in a pandemic-transformed world, to reframe their own expectations about sources of joy.
Judith Klausner's "(de)composed" is on view through March 4.