Presented in the Lounge Gallery at Lyndon House Arts Center, Victoria Dugger’s solo exhibition Mind the Body dissects the aspects of visibility from a deeply personal perspective that nonetheless encourages every viewer to enter her space.
Seeing the Lounge Gallery initially left a sour taste in my mouth. The limited wall space and seating facing away from the exhibition gave the impression that this was not a space meant for viewing artwork; it was makeshift, provisional at best. This abated the more time I spent in the space examining the artworks and noticed the synchronicity between the paintings and their context. For example, Watchin’ You depicts an abstract figurative form lounging on a sofa with a reproduction of another of the artist’s paintings from the exhibition, Baby Doll, hanging on the wall in the background. To drive home this play, a game of cat and mouse—well between a house cat and computer mouse—plays out in the bottom of the composition. Although not descriptive of any one individual, seeing this form lounging in the painted space seemed to mirror my own body standing in the gallery. The Inception moment caused by this painting ropes the viewer into the artist’s construction and implicates them directly in the politics of visibility central to the artist’s practice.
I arrived on the day the exhibition was being photographed. The unexpected presence of third-party eyes and a lens made my actions and comments while viewing the artworks feel performative; there was an audience to view them. The bystanders’ gaze nonverbally applied scrutiny and stress which magnified the distorted self-portraits Dugger presents in the artworks. In her portrait, Baby Doll facial features are exaggerated and warped, set against skin and hair reduced to a minimal pattern of black, green, pink, and white. Initially somewhat grotesque, the external pressure of other eyes and lenses made me feel more and more like the portrait as my own body parts and posture now seemed estranged because of these prying eyes. Both in her portraits and throughout the exhibition, Dugger explores the ways in which individuals’ self-awareness is informed by the world around us, a theme that resonated as I had to negotiate my presence in the space around the photographer.
While stemming from personal experiences about being differently abled, Dugger’s exhibition reinforces that the politics of visibility is a universal issue. We all must conscientiously navigate how and whether we are seen in a world that continually relies on the concentrated view of screens.