Janice McNab: Laurent Delaye Gallery. (London).Todd Haynes's curious film Safe (1995) tells the tale of a woman who becomes "allergic the twentieth century": Developing a morbid sensitivity to everyday chemical substances, she quits her post as a dutiful du·ti·ful
1. Careful to fulfill obligations.
2. Expressing or filled with a sense of obligation.
du American mother, house wife, and consumer, and seeks a cure in a nightmarish, isolated "healing community healing community,
n in behavioral medicine, a group of individuals working in tandem to facilitate repair and recovery. Comprises family members, significant others, and healthcare practitioners representing several disciplines, such as primary care ." Is he the victim of material pollutants, society's crushing psychological demands--or both? The film leaves the question unanswered, suggestively blurring the line between modern living's physical and mental incursions. In this way it anticipates the controversial ideas of such commentators as Elaine Showalte , who has argued (in Hystories, that the psychologically oppressive aspect of modern existence can be cause enough, in themselves, for severe physical illness. According to Showalter, hysteria lives on in conditions like chronic fatigue and Gulf War syndrome Gulf War syndrome, popular name for a variety of ailments experienced by veterans after the Persian Gulf War. Symptoms reported include nausea, cramps, rashes, short-term memory loss, fatigue, difficulty in breathing, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and birth .
The six paintings in Janice McNab's London show tap this reservoir of anxious contention, though one imagines her sitters would object very strongly to the way Haynes and Showalter psychologize psy·chol·o·gize
1. To explain behavior in psychological terms.
2. To investigate, reason, or speculate in psychological terms. illness. Since 1998, McNab has been working with people suffering from the long-term effects of chemical poisoning; her paintings are based on photographs of them and their home environments. Each is accompanied by a short, simply worded text describing the subject's predicament. Ghost, 1998, is a scene vividly reminiscent of Safe--an eerie nighttime depiction of a mobile home in the Texas desert which serves as chemical-free refuge for a real-life multiple chemical sensitivity multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), adverse physical reaction to certain chemicals in susceptible persons. When exposed to the chemicals, people with MCS react with symptoms such as nausea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, impaired memory, rash, and respiratory (MCS) sufferer. Also here are three portraits of Fabienne, an elderly woman whose allergic sensitivity has trapped her in her home for twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. . Hallway, 2000, offers a skewed skewed
curve of a usually unimodal distribution with one tail drawn out more than the other and the median will lie above or below the mean.
skewed Epidemiology adjective Referring to an asymmetrical distribution of a population or of data , top-of-the-stairs view of an apartment that was repeatedly sprayed with pesticide by local authorities, triggering MCS in its resident.
In Illness as Metaphor Illness as Metaphor is a nonfiction work written by Susan Sontag and published in 1978. She wrote it during her own fight against breast cancer and challenged the "blame the victim" mentality behind the language society often uses to describe diseases and those who suffer (1978) Susan Sontag insists that true insights into illness can only be won by resisting metaphoric thinking, but she goes on to admit that "the lurid metaphors with which [illness] has been landscaped" inevitably mold our perception of it. McNab strives to represent spaces fraught with invisible dangers, and minds battling fear and isolation, without traducing her subjects' dignity and privacy. Given the task of rendering visual that which cannot be seen, metaphor becomes an indispensable tool, and thus her paintings offer a visual articulation of Sontag's dilemma. In Ghost, Hallway, and the Fabienne portraits, McNab faithfully reproduces in paint the bleaching, flattening effects of flash photography: The artificial illumination distorts and partially erases the objects it's meant to expose, at the same time lending each scene a claustrophobic (but never lurid) character. In Fabienne Last Went Out in 1981, 2000, for example, the sitter's face looms wanly, her features a straggle strag·gle
intr.v. strag·gled, strag·gling, strag·gles
1. To stray or fall behind.
2. To proceed or spread out in a scattered or irregular group.
n. of fa int brushstrokes. The blankness of Hallway's walls serves to illustrate both the artist's inability to show the chemicals with which they are saturated and MCS's apparent invisibility and incomprehensibility vis-a-vis conventional medical discourse. Laurie Is Hyperactive, 2000, uses a contre-jour effect as another metaphor for exclusion and lack of knowledge: A family sits around a table, silhouetted against a window; the child's toys, arranged on the sill, are the only compositional elements allowed access to the daylight. McNab achieves this image, and the other works on show, with an economical painterly paint·er·ly
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a painter; artistic.
a. Having qualities unique to the art of painting.
b. style that sustains the problematic. Avoiding both photorealist slickness and expressionistic flourish, it reads as a knife-edge balancing act between an objective and subjective register, reinforcing the play of opposites--visibility and invisibility, objectivity and subjectivity, expression and concealment--that shapes the artist's overall project.