Fuzzy Daydream is mixed media awash in meaning

Fuzzy Daydream: A Show About Boredom, Fashion, Death + Time

Through Jan. 21, Public Space One

Fuzzy Daydream at Public Space One. — Sid Peterson/Little Village

In Fuzzy Daydream — an appropriate show to see after the holidays — artists Lydia Diemer, Betsy Hunt and Lindsey Schmitt consider consumption, memory, waste, repurposing and personal identity through textiles. The group offered a virtual artist talk on Jan. 3, and what stood out to me was how much the pandemic loomed in the background, affecting how they worked over the past year: at home alone, finding virtual community with each other, trying to create and cope.

In the words of their artist statement, the three “examine the intertwining of aesthetic and sociopolitical histories and futures, informed by the agency of outfits and fabrics, facets of concealment and disclosure, impulsive actions and the reflexivity of trends.” Diemer explores the “agency of outfits and fabrics,” the ways that they conjure the recent and distant past. Hunt uses her work as a joyful antidote to the pandemic and a meditation on tactility in digital filmmaking. Schmitt’s work addresses the way that clothing acts as a “second layer of skin,” a tool for personal expression.

I see the show on a miserable day, and the hallway’s coziness is welcoming: A fabric banner spells out “fuzzy,” and there is a pink fur-covered computer to access the accompanying website. For an exhibition that fits into two galleries and a hallway, it feels incredibly expansive. It consists of three paintings, three videos, two installations, a banner, the exhibition map and artist statement, postcards, a glossy zine and a website.

There is a lot going on here, but it feels of-the-moment because it is a show created and assembled over the course of the pandemic’s ups, downs and arounds.

Fuzzy Daydream at Public Space One. — Sid Peterson/Little Village

The west gallery hosts three videos. Projected on the wall is Hunt’s Fuzzy Daydream: I Can’t Find My Favorite Shirt, which features two puppets, one of whom has lost his favorite shirt. Clothes drop onto the pink fuzzy closet monster who knows the shirt is misplaced in a pile of clothes. Closet Monster tries on various shirts and even holds up the favorite shirt to no avail. Hunt incorporates prominent tactile features in the video: She hand-shaped the clay border, used a paper background, handmade the puppets, incorporated children’s clothing and added sound effects that add depth and weight to the video. In beginning with this piece, I simultaneously received warm fuzzies and thought about the overconsumption of clothing: Through the inability to find a favorite shirt, we have to reflect on the state of our own closets and consumer habits.

Diemer’s Old New Room is a quieter experience, as you sit at a viewing station and listen through headphones. She intersperses photographs of textiles with video segments of her working and interacting with with fabric, while a voiceover talks about the associative meanings of fiber and the roles textiles have in memory making and family history. A segment that best illustrates this is one in which a piece of fabric has been marked with a water-soluble pen. Diemer dips a paper towel into water and begins to blot the pen marks away. I read this as a metaphor for time: the meanings that textiles have are always ephemeral, just like the textiles themselves.

The third video is housed within the installation Closet. Clothing tags rapidly cross a screen which sits in a closet with physical elements from the previous two videos: puppet legs, the favorite shirt and two quilts. The jarring juxtaposition forces the viewer to ponder the fast pace of exploitative garment production in comparison to the slow nature of handmade items. Playing with time in this way also brings in the pandemic, which has created a very warped sense of time (at least for me): sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow — and never steady.

Closet, in combining a digital video with physical artifacts, connects the west gallery to the east gallery, which serves as an analogue space. Schmitt’s work consists of unstretched canvases hung on the walls. Though her work seems the most traditional in format, the quilt binding around the edges and grommets punched into the canvases refer to spaces outside of the gallery, namely the home.

Fuzzy Daydream at Public Space One. — Sid Peterson/Little Village

A series of abstract shapes are layered together to create various figures, the shapes making reference to hairstyles, clothing and shoes. Body parts cannot be separated from clothing in her figures: torsos are clothing, legs are shoes, arms are gloves, heads are hairstyles. The characters are intentionally ungendered, so it’s a visual free-for-all in identity formation. Titles like Flat. Small. Round. Wiggley. Tall. give nothing away. The blank tag-like pieces of fabric safety-pinned in the grommets allow for self- definition by the characters and force viewers to reckon with the way we gender shapes.

Diemer’s installation Appendix contains sculptural objects and wearable clothing, including a doll bed with paper and ribbon; a roll of wallpaper hanging on a hanger; wooden racks with paper and fabric; embroidery; printed paper hung like more unused fabric; and five garments dyed and stained in different ways. The artist once again asks us to consider time and memory, to make sense of objects whose associations and meanings are so specific to her that I was reminded that I can never fully inhabit the worlds that only exist in memory.

The zine (available for sale) and website make the show accessible to those who cannot visit, and both are practical elements to include during a pandemic. I viewed the zine while inside the exhibition, and when reading it there, I was able to see the different shape the show naturally takes in a booklet. Process snapshots, fragments, shapes and patterns are collapsed, combined and layered together like a pre-show sample book or a posthumous album. The website contains practical elements (artist statement and bios), images of the zine and, most importantly, an dynamic collage with moving background pattern, shapes from Schmitt’s characters, T-shirts from Hunt’s video and patterned fabric seen in Diemer’s video. The collage format makes the website feel spontaneous, as if scraps were repurposed and animated to form something new.

This show about boredom, fashion, death and time demonstrates the care, tedium, spontaneity, struggle and joy of making during a very strange time — all concepts I will take with me as I continue to work through my own new year’s project of cleaning out my closet and ruminating on clothes, sewing projects, family photographs and childhood artifacts.

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