RAM’s Unique Look at the ‘American Cockroach’
survey features photographic artwork and videos that Chalmers creates while
nurturing and examining the lives of cockroaches in her studio. Chalmers
questions our perceptions of the American cockroach, or Periplaneta americana,
through provocative photographs involving dioramas in which she places the
Chalmers’ work is
separated into three distinct sections. “Residents” involves large color prints
of cockroaches in typically human settings, specifically a home. This section
includes Vanity, where one insect
sits on a dresser and looks at its reflection in a mirror, and Sex (on bed), which portrays a romantic
scene complete with wine bottle, golden-threaded bed linens and half-eaten
fruit on the floor. These photographs create a sense of unease by placing
insects within human domains.
The last series,
“Executions,” plays on the ways in which unwanted insects are usually
exterminated. Chalmers pictures the deadly deeds through methods traditionally
used on humans, again contrasting the insect and human worlds. The
black-and-white photograph Electric Chair
places one six-legged creature in a miniature wooden seat, sparks shooting from
between its antennae. The image triggers a wide range of emotions as the viewer
contemplates this process of punishment.
Those disgusted by
cockroaches may find it difficult to enjoy the exhibit on an aesthetic level,
but Chalmers’ sensitivity and inventiveness inspire deep appreciation. The
other two exhibitions in “All the Buzz”—by Jennifer Angus and JoAnna
Poehlmann—may be easier to understand and accept, yet Chalmers’ challenging
artwork presents fresh insights into our human view of the American cockroach.
“Catherine Chalmers: American Cockroach” continues through Sept. 12.