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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

MVC Morris Gallery hosts new exhibit

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jenny Dowd stands by one of her exhibit pieces as she explains the meaning of the porcelain teeth that cover each piece.
(Kelsey Alumbaugh/Democrat-News)
On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Morris Gallery of Contemporary Art at Missouri Valley College opened a new exhibit created by artist Jenny Dowd.

"So I think I have a lot to explain with the teeth and all that," Dowd began as she spoke at her reception. "Well, I've been putting little teeth in my work for a while as a symbol of information."

All the furniture in the gallery is white and textured, but upon closer inspection one would note that each piece is covered in hundreds of white porcelain teeth. A wingback chair covered in rows upon rows of small, white teeth is accompanied by a tooth-covered lamp, an ottoman with a spiraling tooth-covered design and a TV utilizing teeth as static on the screen.

"We can't get rid of ourselves," Dowd continued. "We have DNA that we leave behind, we have teeth and dental records and all this."

Dowd said she enjoys watching people react to her work.

"It was a play on that texture, the white on white, and getting people to kind of come in and say 'Oh, this is really cool' and then watching them recoil. Then, thinking about that contrast," she said.

Her pieces are made of various materials, including gator board, foam board, steal, pillows, fabric and porcelain.

"I used 10 gallons of teeth," Dowd said, explaining she knew the amount by volume and not the precise number of teeth used. "And they are all handmade. There is nobody out there who doesn't have a tooth because I pulled it out."

Dowd stated she is grateful to have a gallery to display her work in.

"The minute I walked in this space I thought, this is an apartment and I want this to be full of furniture" she elaborated. "So having a place to put it was just really, really inspiring and helpful."

Furniture covered in porcelain teeth is not all that is on display in the gallery.

"There were some things I couldn't say with the 3D pieces, with the actual furniture, that started to turn into drawings," Dowd elaborated. "Think about these furniture pieces moving around and acting maybe like we do when we're not home. Or if we have furniture, like my furniture has had several previous owners, so what does that furniture bring to our house? Does it bring to us its past information? So the drawings act that out a little more than I could do with the other pieces."

One of Dowd's biggest challenges was to get the pieces from Wyoming to the gallery.

"Everything is modular. I really like IKEA, so everything comes apart," she said.

Dowd quit her previous job at the end of September 2012 and worked from that point until Jan. 3, to complete her work.

After seeing the gallery, Dowd began to change her perspective.

"In that process, I started thinking more about the furniture and furniture interactions and how all that information we have is left behind everywhere we go," she said. "Everything we touch takes on a little bit of a feeling of ourselves and our personality. Chairs and lamps and tables can speak for us and can take on that personality."

The drawings that accompany the tooth covered furniture weren't always part of the plan, and the five on display are the only ones like this Dowd has completed so far.

"Actually, the drawings just kind of happened," she said. "I really was thinking about certain human situations and would a furniture piece fit into that and how would it behave if it was in that setting."

The furniture and the drawings were do not necessarily go hand in hand, and Dowd herself was surprised by how well the pieces went together.

"I want the drawings to stand on their own, but I'm really pleasantly surprised and happy with how much they almost need the furniture and the furniture needs it," she said. "If I hadn't have had the drawings this would have a completely different feel."

A patron of the exhibit concurred with Dowd's assessment of how her two styles of work go together.

"I want to look at them as you look at drawings, stand alone drawings, but they are in the context of the furniture," Bede Clark, a former professor of Dowd, said. "They are actually part of the vignette of the sculptural piece that is going on or the environment that you've created."

Clark also joked with Dowd about what her husband, Sam, thought of the work.

"I think he's probably really glad to have a little time without me right now because he's had to deal with teeth-y things and then he's had to deal with me giggling manically while working on the drawings," Dowd laughed. "The word that was thrown around a lot was 'tooth-ageden.'"

Dowd said she still had a lot of questions herself about how her work will develop from this point, but she does have some ideas of what she would like to create next.

"I'm imagining a tooth covered vacuum now," she said. "Now I'm thinking about appliances. Like a blender, a tooth covered blender."

The exhibit will be open until March 1.

Contact Kelsey Alumbaugh at kalumbaugh@marshallnews.com

Photos available at: http://www.marshallnews.com/gallery/conv...

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