Culture Rover

#138 - Cornell University

Charles L. Mee's Hotel Casassiopeia turned Joseph Cornell's wistful dream boxes into a play last fall in Chicago. The Cornellian spirit also leaked out of the boxes and beyond the stage into a recent Chicago art show.

Jamie Lou Thome's small exhibition at the Vespine Gallery, "On Longing," takes from Cornell a sense of small things loaded with significance (enter the site and click on Thome's name to view images).

A set of nails in a tin tray speaks of quiet obsessions. A case with a pinned butterfly and drawing inside grows Nabokovian. Another case with a doll in it seems barely to contain multitudes of childhood memories. Scrabble tiles, silver spoons, hardware bric-a-brac, pistachio shells, even cigarette butts have been arranged around old books, disembodied letters, and bits of text.

There is an attempt to discover mystery in minutiae, to bottle or box up a shard of the celestial spheres in a small assemblage of junk.

The art is "on longing" itself, though, not on the object, person, moment, or feelings for which the maker or viewer might be longing. Thome's pieces do not represent what they refer to, but rather evoke the mood of inscrutable unrepresentability itself.

As Cornell did with his boxes, this art offers small openings onto a bottomless well of desire and longing. One throws down a penny, listening for the echo of a drop that never comes.

2 January 2007

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