In the second show from the house-gallery Permanent Collection, artists Sara Condo and Lindsay Hutchens provide two outlooks on female identity and personal loss. Permanent Collection's mission is to bring together an artist from the Midwest (PC's founders relocated to Austin from Chicago) and one from Texas for each exhibition. Condo lives in Chicago, where she's getting her MFA in photography, while Hutchens is a current Austinite who will be leaving this fall to pursue dual master's degrees at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The parallel-lives experience of Condo and Hutchens takes center stage in the exhibition. Condo's photographs capture various keepsakes that were owned by her mother, and a video tracks her mother's journey out west on a train. Condo's mother worked for Amtrak for years, and the video, The Empire Builder, serves as a re-creation of her mother's travels with the company while giving Condo herself a more intensive medium to experiment with. The result is a somber work that helps provide scope for the intensity of the artist's loss.
While Condo's work takes a starker approach to still life, with personal mementos cast against pitch-black backgrounds, Hutchens' oscillates toward capturing her personal affections in situ. With an erect She-Ra figurine titled For Sale: Princess of Power, Hutchens begins to dismantle the collection of toys that she had been saving for the children she thought she would have someday. But as Hutchens has become more removed from the reality of creating her own family, so too have the potential playthings become detached from their nostalgia.
In addition to the images of Hutchens' former mementos, the artist has all of the items listed for sale on Craigslist with brief descriptions of their significance. Permanent Collection has provided an iPad in-gallery so that visitors may also read through the Craigslist ads while viewing the original photographs. This performative act will be finalized at the show's closing, where all still-available items will be sold off at an on-site garage sale – one which just happens to fall directly on Mother's Day.
Condo and Hutchens approach maternity from opposite perspectives, but together they create a comprehensive view of loss, femininity, and identity. Their combined work leaves audiences with a lasting impression of bittersweet recollection and hesitant hope for the future.
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