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Anne Marie McDonnell: America Cooks

by Robert Sievert

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Anne Marie McDonnell: The Inaudible Chirps of Gun Control

Anne Marie McDonnell: Extraordinary Rendition (Outsourcing Torture)

Anne Marie McDonnell: Convention

There is something sinister afoot in the new work of artist ANNE MARIE MCDONNELL . In a set of prints and a sculpted figures recently on view at Soho 20 a hand shoots a gun into a pie of blackbirds, a doughboy chef raises a bird speared on a chef's knife. There is a direct weaving of American politics into her images as violence, aggression and indifference to social problems are addressed.

She creates an allegorical set of chefs, each one addressing some issue that is of concern to the artist. The figures are constructed out of a childrens medium "model magic", a soft white air dried clay. The figures are "doughboys" like the one on TV, soft round and completely harmless; but here they are doing these outrageous acts. In "Can Marriage Be Saved" the white doughboy chef is pulling a bloody heart out of a wedding cake. In "Freegan Chef" a doughboy chef goes diving in a garbage pail trying to gather sustinence from what society has discarded.

I rather liked her "America Cooks" in which the doughboy chef proffers a tray of pills. Is this a reference to America’s chemical-societal solutions to such issues as hyperactivism, insomnia, phychosis and erectile dysfunction? Maybe there is a pill for everything. Another interesting piece is both a sculpture and a print: "The Sanctitiy of Vegetables". The sculpture has the chef raising a bunch of vegetables on high as a priest might raise the blesed sacrament. Yes, vegetables are sacred, everybody knows that; eat your vegetables has been a household mantra throughout our society for years. Vegetables have never harmed anyone, they can't.

The artist has made a print on the same subject. In the print, just the hands are seen raising the vegetables. This collograph is constructed out of a painterly field of color onto which paper silhouettes are applied in a process known in the print world as "chin colle". McDonnell uses this technique freely as she sketches out her ideas with the kitchen as the centerpoint for her commentary on American society.

She even celebrates patron saints of the kitchen. Saint Anthony of Egypt, the patron Saint of butchers, becomes a doughboy butcher wielding a metal implement. Saint Martha is the patron Saint of the kitchen. McDonnell uses her new found modus operandi to present her as a doughlady whipping up a large bowl of victuals. What is more welcome than a figure ready to feed the world?

There is joy as well as fear and loathing in this rather well-focused work as McDonnell takes on major issues with ease. She is not bothered by technical or artistic matters in the direct statements of social concern.


Text copyright © 2005 Robert Sievert




August 17, 2005