In Donald Fodness’s Present Box exhibition, #fool$pool, three isolated figures resemble twisted, even grotesque mannequins. The nature of their placement, more akin to a retail shop than sculpture in a museum, provokes the inward gaze from the outside passerby. From the outside, the scene presents these figures as isolated from each other and from the viewer. The figures, built from found objects, are almost familiar but ultimately foreign. Objects such as cuckoo clocks, hats, lamps, and iPads are highlighted as functional and identifiable objects, yet utilized in bizarre ways. As we linger, we might start to see a dialogue between them, an awkward triangulated narrative created by their physical positioning. Two of the figures hold iPads with the camera turned to “selfie” mode. The camera is activated by the motion of the viewer and the motion of time signaled by the cuckoo clocks. When entering the space, visitors not only trigger the camera but also “photo-bomb” the characters’ “selfies.” Included in their photos, we become part of their scene and start to realize our desire to understand the characters reflects our own search for self.
The characters have been inspired by the classical Greek and Roman myth of Narcissus (acted out by the larger figure covered with fur) and Echo (the smaller, multi-eyed figure). A third character, the dunce, lurks in the corner and looks at us, yet we are unable to see what he sees. The installation asks us to rethink lessons from the ancient myth within the context of our current cultural obsession with social media, online communication, and our own images. Today, social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have altered the way we interact with each other and the world around us. Our online profiles have become an ethos of presence, filtered squares, controlled snippets of moments and memories that engage virtual interactions fueled by ego. As a culture we have created our own pools to fall through. he forwarded-facing cameras on our phones and tablets, and apps such as Instagram celebrate and enable narcissistic tendencies. The “selfie”, an image that one takes of oneself with the intended purpose of posting to an online social media platform, displays a fixation with one’s reflection, similar to Narcissus. Likewise, we should be aware that our interactions with one another do not fuel a detached communication, like that of an echo. Clicking “like” and commenting on each other’s images is more of an echo of what a selfie wants to hear than a true reflection of a friendship.
#fool$pool is many things, but it is primarily a reflection of age-old questions and lessons that we must naturally revisit and relearn. Condensing the visual noise of our socially mediated world into humorous and poetic works, Fodness highlights the pervasive and escalating influence that virtual spaces such as Instagram have on our perception of ourselves and the world around us. Fodness further reminds us that our search for self is not something located in or expressed by a physical work, but rather it is internal, a spiritual component of our being that cannot always be projected onto a shared reality.
Donald Fodness has an interdisciplinary practice that includes drawing, sculpture, furniture, and installation. He earned a BA degree in Art History from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign and an MFA in Painting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has exhibited his drawings internationally and has created site-specific installations for Denver Art Museum, BMoCA, The Gallery of Contemporary Art in Colorado Springs, two Biennial of the Americas, and Harmony Hammond’s Material Engagements at Redline.
Echo & Narcissus
According to classical Roman mythology, Echo was a beautiful wood nymph who was fond of talking and always had the last word. After deceiving the goddess Hera, Echo was cursed to only be able to repeat the sounds and last words of others—giving her the last word but no power to speak first. One day she spotted and fell in love with Narcissus. He was a beautiful creature loved by many, but he loved no one. Unable to speak to him, Echo often waited in the woods to see Narcissus. One day he heard her footsteps and called out “Who’s here?” Echo replied “Here!” Narcissus called again “Come”, Echo replied “Come!”. Narcissus called once more “Why do you shun me?… Let us join one another.” Echo was overjoyed and unable to tell him who she was, she ran towards him and threw herself upon him. Narcissus became angry and pushed her away. Ashamed and heartbroken, Echo ran away to live in the mountains yearning for a love that would never be returned. The grief killed her. Her body became one with the mountain, all that remained was her voice, which replied in kind when others spoke.
Narcissus continued to attract many nymphs, all of whom he briefly entertained before scorning and refusing them. The gods grew tired of his behavior and cursed Narcissus. They made it so there was only one whom he would love, someone who was not real and could never love him back. One day while hunting Narcissus came upon a pool of water. As he bent down to drink the water, he did not recognize his own reflection and was immediately enamored. He tried to grab the image but couldn’t, which made him more infatuated with himself. He called to the gods asking why he was being denied this love. Crazy with love, Narcissus stayed by the side of the water and wasted away. Echo returned to see him wasting away. She mourned, and as he said his farewell to the reflection, she echoed his words. Narcissus like Echo died with grief. His body disappeared, and where his body once lay a flower grew in its place.
Donald Fodness:#fool$pool is an exhibition curated by Mardee Goff and presented at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art as part of BMoCA Present Box. Present Box is a series of temporary exhibitions that invite artists to transform BMoCA’s lobby and front entrance into innovative installations, performances, and events that last two weeks. Presented three times a year, the site-specific projects are intended to encourage artists to create work outside their comfort zone and to foster interactive participation. The exhibitions encourage experimentation and urge artists to test ideas and explore different approaches. Present Box exhibitions are always free and open to the public.