Make us your home page
Instagram

Shana Moulton's 'Journeys' a quirky video exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG

If you take the time, you will find much to enjoy in "Shana Moulton: Journeys Out of the Body" at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. Therein lies your challenge. Taking the time means investing two hours, minimally, to view the 15 or so videos. Ideally, you would need at least three hours because you would probably want to revisit some of them. That commitment asks much of most museumgoers.

Watching a video is a different museum experience. While we might browse static art in a gallery, returning to a painting or sculpture, video requires the viewer to remain stationary as it unfolds. If we're lucky, a nearby bench provides a break. (If we're really lucky, we have the thoughtful planning of this museum which provides lightweight stools on wheels for our comfort.) So my feeling out of the gate is an exhibition based almost entirely on videos is a tough sell.

I suggest an entry-level strategy to appreciate the show.

The overview is Moulton's quirky take on quotidian, everyday situations we deal with but, in some instances, don't like to discuss; irritable bowel syndrome is a standout example she uses, and an unusual subject for art. Many of her "props" are over-the-counter medications, self-help gizmos and cosmetics as well as advertisements for them that become a sort of dialogue. Advertising, after all, could be the conversations we are reluctant to have with another person. ("Can we talk about hemorrhoid creams?" Not a good conversational gambit.)

When her alter ego Cynthia uses or ingests an item, she often undergoes a metamorphosis or unlocks deeper self-awareness. I think. I don't really understand any of it. It's entertaining — that isn't a negative — and interesting. Cynthia can be hilarious as a navel-gazing hypochondriac, but too obscure and personal for me. So I believe you will get plenty from the show if you flit around the galleries, feeling no guilt that you aren't giving each one your full attention. You will have "aha" moments in which you will relate to the artist's narrative.

That said, some works are more compelling than others. The Galactic Pot Healer Ascension was among my favorites because it seemed the most accessible. It, like all of Moulton's videos, is styled with bright colors and kitschy objects that act as counterpoints to Cynthia's deadpan performance. Cynthia accidentally breaks a beloved ceramic pot while reading Sky Mall magazine. (Great detail.) Through bizarre mediums, spilled laxative, for example, she receives messages guiding her to the pot healer who puts broken ones back together. She visits him/her — the person is headless, cloaked in a pink thing resembling a Snuggly and the same color as the laxative, and we don't hear his/her remarks; we see them printed on the screen like subtitles. After performing Itsy-Bitsy Spider-like gestures, the healer says the pot can't be fixed. But, he/she asks, how about a consolation massage? As the healer massages Cynthia's back, her flesh becomes clay with which he/she creates a new pot. It's baked in a microwave and emerges perfectly shaped and glazed. A related video shows the pot healer doing the spider routine as a vessel's shards come back together, then slide over to a shelf for display. The wall label gives us an esoteric interpretation of Pot Healer.

But wisdom from the mouths of children: I noticed a mother and two kids walking around the show. They stopped as I watched Cynthia's "flesh" being gouged out of her back. The mom suggested moving on, but they were mesmerized. I approached her as the children ran back and forth among the videos. I asked the mom, Katherine Humphreys, if I could talk with them about the show. They're not museum novices; Humphreys takes them for frequent visits, most recently the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But the twins are still 7-year-olds.

"I think it's expressive and weird," said Frances.

"I don't know anything about them but I like them," said Charles.

I couldn't have expressed it better.

Contact Lennie Bennett at (727) 893-8293 or lbennett@tampabay.com.

>>Review

Shana Moulton: Journeys Out of the Body

The exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive NE, continues through Oct. 8. Also on view: "Vantage Points: Paintings by Mernet Larsen" through Oct. 30. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with extended hours to 8 p.m. Thursday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $17 adults, $15 seniors and $10 kids 7 and older and students with ID. After 5 p.m. Thursday, admission is $5. mfastpete.org. (727) 896-2667.

Shana Moulton's 'Journeys' a quirky video exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg 07/28/16 [Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table

    Travel

    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers

    Nap

    Walk 6.2 kilometers

    Nap

    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot

    Travel

    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.

  3. Actor John Heard dies at age 72

    Blogs

    John Heard, who played so many roles in the '80s but was probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies, has died, according to media reports. He was 72.

  4. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.

    Travel

    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  5. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game

    Attractions

    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]