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Visiting Olivia Morrow’s installation at the Vivid Solutions Gallery, housed within the Anacostia Arts Center, is an exercise in self-restraint. Suspended invisibly from the ceiling and walls are around three dozen abstract sculptures in chicken wire, tactile organic constructions that appear to morph when viewed from different angles. Nearby crates and drying racks boast strips of fabric arranged by color; a handful of these have been stretched over and hung upon the sculptures, as if to serve as instructional examples.
As museum and gallerygoers in the age of the short attention span, we’ve become accustomed to the liberating invitation to touch, manipulate, and participate in artworks. But Morrow, a D.C. native who received her BFA from Syracuse University in 2012, invites a different kind of participation: Anyone who identifies as a woman is encouraged to donate textiles and articles of clothing, which Morrow will then cut into strips and gradually incorporate into the installation over its seven-week run. Contributors may also submit written answers to prompts about their donated items and personal history. The final product, however, remains under the control of the artist.
As of opening night, the sculptures were still largely bare, their open forms inviting associations both topographic and bodily. Each is subtly colored with powder coating in a range of hues. The four works that appeared most “complete,” with fabric enveloping much of their linear silhouettes, allude more directly to the theme of gender identity posited by the installation’s title, “Feminicity.” These resemble isolated, uncanny body parts, at once constrained and defined by their nylon ligaments. They contort uncomfortably, while remaining immensely pleasing to the eye—a contradiction suggestive of the social expectations traditionally imposed on women.
Morrow says she hopes that the installation will encourage women to share the memories they associate with their clothing and perhaps even serve as a healing process for those repurposing items related to trauma. “Feminicity” is the first of four dynamic installations in the “IMMERSION” series, an interactive project that will take place across the Historic Anacostia district through the fall.
Through Sept.16 at the Vivid Solutions Gallery, 1231 Good Hope Road SE. (202) 631-6291. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.