MFA Thesis Exhibition, 2012
Tyler School of Art, Temple University
Bethany Pelle's MFA thesis work investigates connections between material culture, interpersonal relationships, and larger social realities of structural inequity. She incorporates everyday materials into minimalist sculpture, videos, installations, and ceramics. By using an economy of materials in each piece––a few key elements for viewers to connect to and pull together––Pelle is able to engage nuances of human experience and desire. To a sensitive audience, the work is suggestively narrative and allegorical.
Because language structures the very possibilities of what can be thought, the cultural significance of what is nameable carries incredible importance for individuals and communities. The title of Pelle’s MFA Thesis exhibition, Give the Cat a Name, addresses the process of naming as an investigation into representation. In relation to the title of the exhibition, the sculpture, Minou–the named cat–enforces this command to name and this call to political representation. An assemblage of materials resembling a cat pelt, enclosed in a clear plastic bag–Minou makes questions of containment, concealment, and violence visible. In doing so, Pelle's hope is that these questions–questions that constitute the foundations of both feminist liberation and the struggle against neoliberalism–trouble an attentive audience.
Minou is part of a larger domestic tableau. The sculptures Buy Some Furniture and Untitled (Pit) utilize everyday domestic objects. These sculptures reference the home setting as a site of materialized identity construction, social negotiation, and consumption. Buy Some Furniture features one-hundred-twenty square feet of beige carpeting, an ashtray and a small handful of bobby-pins scattered next to unupholstered sofa cushions. The scene arouses melancholy, suggests a sense of longing. The title Buy Some Furniture, evokes a cultural imperative of consumption and the struggles of either rising to––or resisting–– this command. Across the gallery, (Pit) consists of a thin, steel frame supporting an elevated section of hardwood flooring. A densely-knotted, Turkish carpet, illuminated by a floor lamp, sinks through a hole in the floor. The ill-concealed hole, revealed by the contorted carpet, evokes the trap of structural inequality. Placing these objects in relation to one another sets the stage for considering subjective and collective desires.
Give the Cat a Name serves as a starting point to Pelle's long-term artistic objectives: to engage sensible and intellectual ways of knowing, to promote the formation of collective and counter social imaginaries, and to mobilize the potential of desire to improve our futures.
As an analytic deconstruction of the sites and production of desire, Give the Cat a Name engages a different way of desiring––one liberated from the ideological constraints of production and consumption.