Regardless of their virtues, everyone has a vice. It may be buried deep at the heart of their personality, escaping only in certain circumstances. It may take hold of them more than their virtues do, tainting all their actions.
Maybe you binge-eat when you’ve had a rough day. Maybe you stare at yourself in the mirror for hours before leaving the house. Or maybe, when you get angry, you have murderous thoughts.
What’s your vice?
Non-Fiction’s latest juried show, American Vices, wants to know what deep thoughts and tendencies reside in your psyche.
The jurors for the show included Alexandra Chamberlain, exhibitions director of Non-Fiction Gallery; Clinton Edminster, executive director of Art Rise Savannah; and Kayla Goggin, SAI’s own editor-in-chief.
The three decided upon the theme of American vices immediately after closing Non-Fiction’s last juried show, The Gift You Never Wanted.
“We decided very quickly we wanted to do something on the darker side because it generates a lot of interest, gets people riled up and ready to go,” says Chamberlain. “We also wanted something that was wide-ranging and allows for a lot of opportunity for artists to interpret themselves.”
Chamberlain, Edminster and Goggin narrowed a field of 196 submissions into a show of 41 pieces that illustrate the spectrum of vices across our nation.
Jurying a show is more than picking which pieces look best—it’s an incredibly complex process.
“In curating the show, you have to think, whenever you choose one piece, how does that one piece speak to all the other pieces you’re choosing?” explains Chamberlain. “You can’t choose a piece just because you like it aesthetically or how it speaks to you. It has to speak to all the other pieces. And how are all those pieces speaking together to fit your prospectus?”
In addition to the thematic coherence of the selected pieces, jurors must consider how the pieces hang together on the walls—“you can’t jam 100 pieces of art together and not let them have room to breathe,” says Chamberlain—and the architectural restraints of the gallery.
“What you end up creating is, in and of itself, a piece of work,” says Edminster. “The more you start playing with it, I think you get more metaphysical, philosophical—you get into the artists’ space.”
Invading the artists’ psyche reveals a lot about, appropriately, American vices and how they interact with and play off of each other. It also reveals, in an indirect sense, the expectations we as Americans have of ourselves and each other.
Artist Katie Hovencamp’s photograph, “Last Course”, simultaneously explores gluttony, body image, and the fraught relationship Americans have with food.
“I was interested in what happened conceptually when food was placed on the exterior of the body, rather than the interior,” says Hovencamp. “I wanted the viewer to ask questions about their own indulgent desires as well as regret from being too indulgent. I mask the body [in this and a different piece] to establish a relationship between myself and the viewer, where I question our relationships with food as well as how society views the body.”
Hovencamp’s concept is hardly new. The two most popular tabloid fodder pieces deal with how much weight someone has gained and how much weight someone has lost. That obsession with others’ bodies coexists with our obsession about how our own bodies look, leading to a lifelong habit of negative behaviors like binge-eating. Hovencamp’s look at both personal and nationwide vices urges the viewer to think and respond.
Spencer Sloan’s work, focusing on celebrities and the Internet, portrays a personal vice that he shares with many Americans.
“A two-headed vice of my own is addiction to celebrity culture and the Internet,” says Sloan. “The work I create is almost a byproduct of the method I use to deal with these things. Internet addiction and obsession with celebrity are not exclusively American problems, but I think Americans definitely excel at them.”
Jennifer Lee Hallsey’s work as a jewelry artist doesn’t necessarily reflect her own vices but comments upon Americans’ necessity for bling.
“As a jewelry artist primarily, issues of value, greed, and pride come up often in my work,” notes Hallsey. “Jewelry is entirely superfluous. We don’t need it to survive, and yet we wear it. Jewelry is purely human as it references the body. It may explore nature or the artificial, but it is doing it from its relationship to the body. Even if it isn’t wearable, it references the human form.”
Chamberlain is keeping the pieces under lock and key until the show’s opening Friday evening, so make sure you attend to see this thought-provoking work for yourself. It may prompt you to take a harder look at yourself and realize your own vices, buried deep.