Currently Giving Her Show Away: Chauney Peck

The Stranger, April 22, 2010
by Jen Graves

Chauney Peck is giving her art away—the art in her solo show this month at SOIL. All you have to do is go to the show, figure out what you want, and express to her why. The gallery can give you her email address, or you can talk to her in person, today, until 5, in the gallery. The show is up through May 1.

This gift aspect of the show makes sense since the work is about the value of art in societies that are not modern and Western—and the transition that objects make when they enter modernized, Westernized spaces such as museums and galleries. Peck subtly compares that transition to the explosion of an atom bomb. The installation is arranged based on the way African fetish objects are displayed at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris. Peck's installation looks like Brancusi by way of '80s neon and '90s DYI culture; designating certain pieces as "offerings" brings attention to the eternal clash between the spiritual and the economic in Western art while also removing these particular objects from the commodity system entirely.

Here's her explaining in an email why she wants to give away her art. She does hope for an "offering" in return; there's no saying it has to be monetary, or even tangible. The several sculptures I am giving away as offerings are indicated on the price list at the gallery with a star (& no price). It's my goal to pair people with particular offerings they like. I have a list of who would like what (people can email me the one they like). At the end of the show I will randomly choose a recipient for each offering according to the list. The offerings idea started last year when I received a few gifts in a row—quirky sculptures made of sticks from different acquaintances for no reason. They had a certain feeling of sweetness I was attracted to that art objects or other commodities usually don't have. After reading The Gift [by Lewis Hyde] I understood that specialness of the stick gifts as a gesture of gratitude. An example I keep coming back to that Lewis Hyde mentions is the hunters that kill 10 birds. They eat 8 and give 2 to the priest. The priest eats one and he prepares the last as a talisman and offers it back to the forest to make the birds plentiful for the next hunt. One of the important parts of this ritual is their perspective—their offering is a humble gesture of gratitude towards the forest, and that they do not intend to exploit it, which in turn does make the birds come back.

In terms of my work, it is exciting to experiment with the idea of offering thanks in a personally meaningful way. To me it's about moving energy around continually or greasing the wheels?! When one makes an offering, it's a sacrifice and one does not ask for a tangible return. But I do have one hope that people who receive one of my offerings will make an offering of their own, analogous to the 'return gift' Hyde talks about. For reasons I am not totally aware of, it feels right and actually better to gift these particular sculptures I designated as offerings than selling then.

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