Help Me, Help You... "The Art of Self-Improvement" at Concertina Gallery

I stopped into Concertina Gallery recently and got a personal tour of the latest exhibition from co-directors Francesca Wilmot and Katherine Pill.  The apartment gallery's current show features work by seven artists, some working in collaboration, others alone, all exploring the self-help phenomenon in a variety of mediums through some light, but revealing, mockery, reminding us that many people promise to have the answers to life's problems...    

The first piece I encountered was Habby Osk's GREAT, 73 minutes of voyeuristic opportunity to watch someone actually try to smile for over an hour.  And it's tough to watch.  The artist seems to start out doing her own version of a little Stuart Smalley confidence building; you think of all those people out there who start their day by smiling at the face they see in the mirror or putting on happy faces for photographs.  But then her endurance test goes on, and on, and Osk's muscles start to give in.  Her face looks pasty, cheeks puffy, and the smile is starts to slip into a grimace.  And then, there's the drool...  A smile's appeal is often in its spontaneity and brevity, and in GREAT, you see how hard it is to keep up appearances all the time.

On another TV screen artist Jill Pangallo played the character of Natia, a "healer" attending an outdoor, renaissance fair-like gathering for other artists and gurus.  For Natia and the Art Outside, Natia, who looks a little like Alanis Morissette mid-90s, tells the viewer about her experiences on site at the outdoor festival.  And despite her wish to be a calming healer to visitors to her booth, she's easily ticked off. When venting her frustration to the camera, she reminded me of both Parker Posey's spacy character in Waiting for Guffman, as well as Christopher Guest's agitated, dramatic Corky St. Clair from the same movie. She apparently never breaks character, even in interviews, and Natia is certainly memorable.

Other works in the show explore self-help through unique versions of familiar channels: an interactive massage "portal" by Faith La Rocque and Jaimie Henthorn that lets the subject simultaneously inhale scotch fumes; hypnosis by Jacob Hammes for creative types, and of course, tongue-in-cheek takes on ubiquitous self-help books by Gregg Louis

The show is a personal journey for sure.

I'm OK You're OK: The Art of Self-Improvement features work by
C. Hammes & Chelsea Culp, Faith La Rocque & Jaimie
Henthorn, Gregg Louis, Habby Osk, and Jill Pangallo. 
Concertina Gallery
2351 N. Milwaukee Ave. (60647)
April 18, 2010
Gallery Hours: Sundays, 12-5pm

Leave a comment