MCA Chicago
Dec 18, 2018–Jul 7, 2019

What does it mean to read art history? Jessica Campbell (Canadian, b. 1985) re-envisions the life and artwork of twentieth-century Canadian painter Emily Carr (1871–1945) in a suite of brand-new paintings, drawings, comics, and textiles inspired by their shared roots in Victoria, British Columbia. An immersive carpet mural inspired the Scrovegni Chapel interweaves formative—and often difficult—scenes from the lives of both artists. The colorful floor-to-ceiling carpet dampens the sound in the gallery, creating a chapel-like atmosphere for contemplating imagery that is rarely given space for serious contemplation: the lived experiences of women. A takeaway comic pairing these stories with texts drawn from Carr’s personal writings provides an alternate—and equally valid— way to parse the scenes depicted. Large-scale ink and charcoal re-creations of Carr’s unpublished cartoons illuminate an otherwise invisible private life full of domestic indignities and female companionship, and a rug satirizes the female nudes in the 1933 World's Fair, to which Carr made a (failed) pilgrimage. Campbell transforms Carr’s story into grounds for reckoning with the types of representation that society values.

Essay by Nina Wexelblatt