Artist Jillian McDonald is obsessed with two things: Billy Bob Thornton and zombies. Some of her favorite people are strangers. And she has been known to rent out a salon chair and shampoo people’s hair for free.
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One day, she hopped on the L train bound for east Brooklyn. As she sat, unassuming, on her subway commute, she pulled out a compact and began applying her makeup. Heads began turning, and mouths dropped as nearby commuters watched Jillian turn herself into a zombie, complete with white chalky paint, black eyes and bloody smears.
She caught the whole masquerade on video, and the piece makes up half of her up-and-coming Soap Factory exhibit “Zombie Lands.”
While not a horror fan by nature, Jillian has recently been exploring elements of cult horror – the primal scream, special effects and artificiality and the monster enigma among them – in order to further understand its macabre allure.
Her second film installation also, rather appropriately, deals with those brainless, yet persistent creatures of the undead. Entitled “Zombie Loop,” two film loops are positioned on opposite sides of the gallery wall. On one wall, a zombie (played by Jillian) endlessly pursues the camera on a country dirt road. On the other wall, a victim (also played by Jillian) is forever chased by, assumedly, the zombie.
Once the viewer becomes caught in the middle in a dark room, whether they chose the gaze of voyeur or victim is up to them.
Oddly enough, the chase has no elements of gore and violence – or plot, for that matter.
“It’s taking the chase in subgenre zombie movies out of the horror film,” McDonald explains. “I’m just creating a scene where the chase is endless. The victim never gets caught.”
A mango is a sticky, gushy fruitstuff that slathers cheeks and fingertips with orange gobs. The iPod, on the other hand, is a futuristic, sleek sonic love-box that seduces the eye with its sultry geometric mojo. Together, the two are ideal – if crass, unlikely bedfellows – a match made in surrealist heaven.
Or, at least that’s what Soap Factory Executive Director Ben Heywood thought when he was choosing from artist submissions for the Factory’s spring exhibition. In homage to the mango (sex) and iPod (fetish) dualism, he appropriately titled this year’s show, “This Mango is Now an iPod.”
Ten artists will exhibit their work this spring in the raw, ex-industrial gallery space. The pieces range from sculpture to found objects to fantasy landscapes and unexpected juxtapositions. One piece consists of ape skulls sporting knitted wigs; another, a heavy-handed, psychedelic painting of “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”
One of the exhibited artists, recent MFA recipient at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Molly Roth, is showcasing her inanimate “babies,” formally titled “Untapped Potentials.” The little objects look like fleshy tumors with Victorian lace and fabric protruding from their knobby limbs. Some have stray hairs. Others have stray jewels. And they seem to creep and crawl all over the gallery space like gelatinous plague hosts.
“I’ve had fantasies of taking them to a sandbox,” said Roth. “I think of them as kids. They don’t really have any manners, yet they don’t have any hands, either. They’re very uncouth little things.”