Two shows miss their shot at moving us

October 21, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Two interesting but flawed shows currently at neighboring colleges, Loyola and Notre Dame, involve children, either directly or indirectly. Both involve photos and texts -- one mostly photos and one mostly texts.

At Loyola, local photographer Michela Caudill shows photos of residents at Woodbourne Center, an institution for emotionally disturbed children and teen-agers. In 1992, Caudill received a grant from the center to photograph the residents in their daily lives, interacting with one another and with the staff.

The photos that resulted have been fleshed out for this show with some of the youngsters' words. But the exhibit fails to resonate.

For one thing, the photographs are not all that moving. They're nice photographs, showing kids reacting to the camera at times and caught in more thoughtful moments at others. But they don't get us close to these kids, or tell us much about them. Perhaps it's because too many are involved, so we don't get to study any of them as much as we'd like.

Too many of the youngsters' words are about abstract subjects like fear, love or friends, and are not riveting. The stories that are riveting are those about the kids' backgrounds, but there are all too few of them.

The stories are not connected to the pictures, but hung separately, so when we read a story we can't put a face to it. The fact that no names are used in this show makes for an impersonality that further distances us from these young people.

A similar flaw afflicts Debra Rubino's show at Notre Dame, "Women Without Children, Volume I: A Book in Progress on the Wall." In recent years Rubino has done a number of artists' books, combining photographs and texts, with women as subject matter. The latest is a book about women over 40 who have never had children.

These women are all anonymous. We don't even see their pictures; there are printed quotes from them, accompanied by pictures of stones, birds' nests, broken eggs. We don't even know if these quotes -- some long, some only a few lines -- are by different people or if some people are represented by more than one quote.

The show nevertheless holds the interest because of the quotes themselves. A few examples:

"I do think, and I wouldn't be talking with candor if I didn't tell you, that it occurs to me from time to time that it would have been a lovely thing. But you know, it would have been a lovely thing to have a Lear jet, too."

". . . what happened was I just didn't make the decision, but probably, on some level, I made decisions that would mean it didn't have to be made until it couldn't be made."

"Maybe I'm missing the gene that makes one get really excited when they see babies."

"If I thought about it at all, I thought having children would be having a life like my mother's. And heaven knows I didn't want that."

"Children are life, but they are not all life. Not all of it."

ART REVIEW

What: "The Woodbourne Project"

Where: Loyola College Art Gallery, 4501 N. Charles St.

When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 10

Call: (410) 617-2799

*

What: "Women Without Children"

Where: Gormley Gallery, Notre Dame College, 4701 N. Charles St.

When: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, through Nov. 4

$ Call: (410) 435-0100

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