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Feather-Stitch

Tuesday, August 26, 2003–Saturday, September 06, 2003

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Dani Leventhal ’s multi-part project Feather-Stitch included a series of boldly graphic and tenderly personal drawings as well as a rammed earth platform for women performers, a vegetable garden, a cookout, and an outdoor evening video screening. In her investigation of issues of domesticity, identity, purpose, ethics and sexuality, Leventhal invited viewers of Feather-Stitch to both observe and participate in the rituals of her design: sacred, quotidian, personal and communal actions that were at once both poetic and playful.

In Feather-Stitch Leventhal brought together disparate elements that contain tethers and ties to some of the most basic and complex elements of life around us. Her interests in a garden, for example, range from the wonder of growth as the simple consequence of light, water, soil and care; to a concern for sustenance and close observation and experience of how we not only maintain our own life, but are also connected to other life forms; to a hidden humor in the phallic forms of vegetable and how their sexual uses could so easily coincide with their dinner possibilities. In the same way that she set up her surveillance camera to translate the multiplicity of vegetable growth into a representation, Leventhal wrote a list on the wall of the gallery that named the birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in an act intended to honor and understand the overlooked and marvelous that exist in our midst.

As part of the processual nature of this exhibition, the list-writing was ongoing, as was Leventhal ’s series of drawings on paper. As the audience explored the exhibition, they were invited to ask the artist questions, step up onto and lay on the rammed earth platform, and to partake in a cookout and video screening.

Dani Leventhal received her MFA in Sculpture from UIC in 2003, and her MFA in film/video from Bard College in 2009. She has screened her work at Oberhausen, Rotterdam, The Gene Siskel Film Center, CineCycle and Anthology Film Archives.

Feather-Stitch was commissioned as one of the projects in the 2003 At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago
series.

Related:

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST

Dani Leventhal

Chicago’s Mother, 2003
Oil, graphite, photographs, and glue on paper, 52 x 42 in.

Dissection Table, 2003
Table, X-Acto knife, magnifying glass, pins, hammer, and container of salt

Drawings, 2003
Oil, graphite, photographs, and glue on paper, 52 x 42 in.

Julia’s Garden, 2003
Oil, graphite, photographs, and glue on paper, 52 x 42 in.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, 2003
List of over 1,000 birds protected by the MBTA written with pencil on the wall

Okra Surveillance, 2003
Live feed surveillance projection of okra plant

Orange One, 2003
Oil, graphite, photographs, and glue on paper, 52 x 42 in.

Phallic Shaped Vegetable Garden, 2003
Carrots, jalapeños, okra, cucumbers, corn, and zucchini

Rammed Earth Platform, 2003
Eighteen tons of damp soil and two vinyl pillows embroidered with feather stitches, 96 x 96 x 48 in.

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

Feather-Stitch is supported by the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Special thanks to the jury that selected the 2003 At The Edge projects: Danielle Gustafson-Sundell (artist and co-director of Deluxe Projects), Paul Ha (Executive Director, Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis), Kevin Kaempf (artist), Jennifer Reeder (artist and UIC faculty member), and Lorelei Stewart (Director, Gallery 400).

EXHIBITION ESSAY

A Note on Feather-Stitch

Lorelei Stewart

In Feather-Stitch, Dani Leventhal brings together disparate elements that draw tethers and ties between some of the most basic and complex elements of life around us. Her interest in a garden, for example, can range from the wonder of growth as the simple consequence of light, water, soil, and care; to a concern for sustenance and close observation and experience of how we not only maintain our own life but are connected to other lifeforms; to a hidden humor in the phallic forms of vegetables and how their sexual uses could so easily coincide with their dinner possibilities.

As some visitors know, Leventhal had planned to dissect songbirds as part of her exhibition. Leventhal ’s dissections are careful explorations that in their movements and gesture evidence a reverent care and interest. In the same way that she sets up her surveillance camera to translate the multiplicity of vegetable growth into a representation, her dissections are intended to honor and understand the overlooked and marvelous in our midst.

In the course of planning this exhibition, Leventhal and Gallery 400 learned that most birds, even common ones that a cat might drag into a house or might fly into glass buildings around the city, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, a treaty and law that we have learned is little known by lay people but prohibits even the possession of protected birds. Though it is possible that Gallery 400 and Leventhal, if time had permitted, could have applied for permits to possess and dissect the protected birds or even to dissect unprotected birds, we halted the planned dissection. Leventhal is instead writing a list on the wall that names the birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

As part of the processual nature of this exhibition the list-writing is ongoing, as is Leventhal ’s series of drawings on paper. As you explore the exhibition, you are invited to ask the artist questions when she is here, step up onto and lay on the rammed earth platform, and come back and join us for a cookout and video screening on Saturday, September 6.

This essay was distributed in the gallery during the run of the exhibition.