Sep 16th 2022

Jessica Labatte: Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm

@ Western Exhibitions

1709 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Opening Friday, September 16th, from 5PM - 8PM

On view through Saturday, October 29th

Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm, Jessica Labatte’s third show with Western Exhibitions, unveils the complex material layers of Labatte’s artistic practice — various photographic series, sculptures, video, wallpaper ­­— during the constant companionship of working from home and the birth of her second child.  The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Diane Ackerman’s poem, “Diffraction (for Carl Sagan)” and speaks to the emotional spectrum of inwardness and expansiveness, overwhelming joy and deep sadness experienced by Labatte during the pandemic. Domestic and natural objects conjure themes of accumulation, change, chance, stasis, winter, play, and resilience. Charting daily and seasonal milestones, the works seesaw between the inspired beauty of the world as seen by a child and the exhaustion of parenting in seclusion. The opens with a free public reception on Friday, September 16, 5 to 8pm and runs through October 29, 2022. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm.

Inspired by artist-built environments of the Midwest, Labatte and her family activate their home and transform simple everyday materials into imaginative still lifes, sculptures, and abstractions, erasing the boundaries between high and low creative expression in both material and authorship. No longer relegated to the basement, the artist’s studio now permeates the entire house, bringing improvisational creativity and iterative production into the shared domestic space.  Using snow, flowers, chenille stems, ice, feathers, construction paper, polymer clay, and pompoms to experiment, play, and create together, Labatte’s family are active collaborators in her creative process, highlighting the intimacy of shared artistic curiosity that co-exists with caretaking routines.

In her considerations of what items (found, inherited, made) to keep, transform, or discard, Labatte has been exploring and questioning not only her family traditions, gender roles, and societal expectations through the perspective of raising her children, but also her own artistic materials and processes. The large-format camera and film are still present, with dust specks and all, but so are lumen prints, digital photographs, Photoshop collage, video, and sculptures made in collaboration.  These works explore the different ways generational time, environmental conditions, weather patterns, and family habits can create microclimates and microcultures within domesticity.

The exhibition is a curation of shared experiences of the world through the lens of the artist, but also a reflection of the values and habits Labatte wants to pass on to her children.  Much like Suzanne Simard’s “Mother Tree” that communicates via mycorrhizal networks to nurture arboreal offspring and the surrounding community through difficult times, Labatte seeks to embrace her own family history while discarding, transforming, and adapting. Learning to embrace failure, fracture, and the turbulence inherent in societal change necessitates attentiveness, mindfulness, and a symbiotic engagement with the natural world.  The works in the exhibition are examples of this practice.

Jessica Labatte’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL; Elmhurst Art Museum; Hyde Park Art Center; Higher Pictures, NYC; Golden Gallery, and Horton Gallery, NYC, among others. Her work has been reviewed in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Chicago Magazine. In Artforum, Zachary Cahill wrote “If the process sounds complicated to understand, that’s because it is, though the end results aren’t. The photographs are visually generous and are marked by blasts of color that register the living quality of time itself.” Labatte received an MFA and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is represented by Western Exhibitions in Chicago and lives and works in the Chicagoland area.

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