Breath Between Us Proves Fresh Take with Delicate Intimacy

Kara Brooks, Arts Editor

In 1963 Betty Friedan provided the roots for the Second Wave Feminist Movement with her groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique. In it, she drew back the curtain on society’s false, limited conception of the role of the female as one that is exclusively domestic. Years later, perhaps the means of feminine mystique can be redefined more literally: the charisma, charm or allure of a woman. The work presented by College senior Alison Karasyk in her Senior Studio show played off of this modern conception of femininity. There was no “problem.”

Karasyk’s Breath Between Us brought a courageously effeminate feel to Fisher Gallery on March 2 for the first of this year’s Senior Studio shows. Soft colors, along with shadows, tactility and poetry provided a satisfying balance to the choice of materials, which displayed palpable signs of aging. Instead of seeming tragic, the misshapen materials, loose threads and decaying objects appeared beautifully delicate. This full-scale appropriation of the recognition of human fragility proved to be the strength of Karasyk’s show and inspired self-reflection in its viewers.

Ironically, the most tangible aspect of Breath Between Us was the projection of Karasyk’s artist statement: a poem that became an installation in itself. Karasyk individualized the poem by addressing it to a specific anonymous subject and including personal details such as the color of her bedroom walls, yet it remained vague enough to allow visitors to make their own personal associations with the work.

Each of the six works corresponded with the poem in their own way. The piece “Window,” which is comprised of nails, a window screen and black thread, addressed the poem most directly and actually had text from the artist statement woven into it.

“Loose ends to Haryette Mullin” also incorporated the text, as the title addressed the poet and Karasyk used the same construction techniques seen in “Window.” Again, black thread is woven through a screen, only this time on a much greater in scale. Three massive screens hang belly-out from the ceiling by fishing wire, confronting the viewer with large text sewn in a deskilled fashion.

In terms of visible, fast-acting decomposition, the untitled piece in the center of Fisher Gallery allured the viewers the most. In many ways the piece was the capstone of Breath Between Us, as it brought all of Karasyk’s thematic aspects into one work. Karasyk glued eggshells, pristinely cut into halves, onto a bare mattress frame. The work is undeniably beautiful and its lack of title allows it to function as a broader meditation on the delicate and the breakable.

The most palpable signifier of aging was the piece “Romance Preserved,” which was constructed by decayed roses and latex. Karasyk arranged a sea of flowers that appeared as if they were growing out of the wall. The composition is striking, as roses typify romance and beauty, yet their formation in this work is unnatural and emphasizes their state of decay.

As Karasyk wrote in her artist statement, “Some things are better left unknown.” The audience was allowed to refrain from diving too deep into the context of her work, particularly the deskilling in the sewn text. Instead, Breath Between Us can be viewed as one gigantic sigh that speaks to the exceptional emotional capacity of women.