Loving repeating then in some is their natural way of complete being. This is now some description of one. —Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans
Married artist collaborators Miller & Shellabarger explore physicality, duality, time and romantic ideals in their multidisciplinary work. Performance, photography, artists’ books, sculpture and cut paper silhouettes document the rhythms of human relationships, speaking both to common experiences of intimacy as well as the specifics of queer identities. For their third show at Western Exhibitions, Miller & Shellabarger present artists’ books, prints, photographs, and a cut-paper installation that address their ongoing concerns with an emphasis on entanglement, compression of time, mortality, and bodily and temporal limitations. Homo-entanglement will open with a public reception on Friday, February 28 from 5 to 8pm and will run through April 11. Gallery hours are 11am to 6pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
For Homo-entanglement, Miller & Shellabarger utilize images and methods from prior bodies of work, temporally and physically entwining their past into a single space in the present. Entanglement is a key consideration in their work, allowing for capture and elevation of moments of togetherness and separation, public and private, protection and pain, visibility and veiled. Embodiment and physicality are fictitious in the scenes that Miller & Shellabarger orchestrate; mortality is an overarching theme in this show. What happens or remains when the physical presence is no longer present?
In Gallery 1, Miller & Shellabarger present an array of new artist books and prints which are informed by fragmented ephemera of older work. Their heads, entangled bodies and handprints from gunpowder drawings are layered and re-layered atop one another, traveling backwards and forwards through time, in richly textured pressure prints and on the pages of cinematic and narratively confusing artists’ books. A series of notebooks stained with rings from their respective coffee cups, captured daily, document the quiet and/or messy moments of a life spent together. Butter Books from the past couple of years will also be included, an ongoing series where they collect, clean and bind every wax paper butter wrapper from each stick of butter they have consumed in a year.
Curtains of cut-paper silhouettes form a temporal and fragile room within a room in Gallery 2, evoking an overwhelming sense of absence and presence, or absence of presence. The curtains consist of vertical rows of silhouettes of the artists in interactive, often sexual, poses that are folded multiple times so that the image flips backward and forward, repeated so many times that it becomes a mass of corporal outlines. Inside the room made with cut paper veils will be two rectangular piles of white origami cranes. A bare light bulb is dangled in the middle of this mortuary, casting shadows through the veils, illuminating their physical figures while also calling attention to their absence. This powerful yet low-tech installation addresses possibilities of their physicality: accepting, investigating and expressing their respective mortalities. After the show comes down the entirety of the installation will be ritualistically burnt—veils and cranes—and the ashes will be preserved in a wooden urn.
Miller & Shellabarger have had solo shows and performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago Cultural Center, INOVA in Milwaukee, Time-Based Arts Festival in Portland, Sindikit Projects in Baltimore, and Gallery Diet in Miami and they have performed and/or been exhibited in group shows across the North America. Miller & Shellabarger are a 2008 recipient of an Artadia Chicago award and a 2007 recipient of a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation award. Their work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Newark Public Library, Indiana University Art Museum and the National Gallery of Canada. Their work has been written about in Artforum, Art in America, Art & Auction, Frieze, Artnet, The Art Newspaper, Flash Art, Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times. Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger also maintain separate artistic practices. They are represented by Western Exhibitions in Chicago. They live and work in Chicago.
Miller & Shellabarger Untitled (Pink Tube)
Miller & Shellabarger will be performing Untitled (Pink Tube) three times during the run of their show at Western Exhibitions:
March 10: 3-6pm
March 26: 3-6pm
April 9: 4-8pm (late hours)
Untitled (Pink Tube) is an ongoing non-theatrical performance by Miller & Shellabarger (Chicago-based artists and married couple Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger) started in 2003 in which they simultaneously crochet at opposite ends of a long tube of pink yarn. The tube is a metaphorically-loaded object that both unites and separates them. As the tube grows, it keeps them tethered together as it pushes them apart. Pink Tube is a lifelong artwork, always performed in public, always together.
Edited excerpt from Matt Morris’ essay “Exhibition Imaginaries and the Expanded Senses No. 5” published in Fragrantica
Miller & Shellabarger use self-portraiture, laborious material processes, and beautifully attenuated craftsmanship to meditate on love and death. The possibilities of connection, partnership, interdependency, and the eventualities of loss penetrate all of their projects together. The results are brave and loving. Among these works is “Untitled (Pink Tube)” that they began together in 2003. In this piece, the two artists intermittently sit in public spaces together, continually crocheting on either end of a lengthening pink tube of acrylic yarn. Stages of the piece are visible in shifts in the shades of pink yarn available at any given time. Connective but also gradually distancing, the couple will find themselves in discussions with audiences while they work. In this mode of socializing, we’re given glimpses of the lovable, thoughtful personalities that define both artists and their relationship with each other.
They have agreed that when one of them dies, the other will unravel all the crocheting they’ve done, now more than fifteen years of effort. Poignant, bittersweet, heartbreaking, this project makes notice of the temporal qualities of beauty. “Untitled (Pink Tube)” reminds me to stay present and grateful.
Miller & Shellabarger have presented Untitled (Pink Tube) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago Cultural Center, INOVA in Milwaukee, Time-Based Arts Festival in Portland, NADA Miami, EXPO Chicago, VOLTA Basel, The Stray Show in Chicago and at The Suburban in Oak Park, Illinois