Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Reflections of "My Country Has No Name" by Toyin Odutola

Toyin Odutola
"My Country Has No Name"
Jack Shainman Gallery
May 16 – June 29, 2013

This show was so powerful that it paralyzed my ability to articulate how I felt. I quickly jotted down a collection of adjectives and emotions, because I knew I wouldn’t feel this way about another art exhibit for a long time.

I was so overwhelmed by Odutola’s work, by what the human hand could do that, as an average person, I was left feeling incapable of everything. Now, every word I say seems forged. And every action I engage in seems feeble-minded. For I can no longer make a contribution to the world that doesn’t now seem trite compared to this incredible presentation.

In the “My Country Has No Name” exhibit, Odutola continued her practice of portraying human figures through mostly pen ink drawings on paper.  I was mesmerized by the insane and meticulous detail in the work. At close focus, there were millions of fine ink strokes, which made up body contour, muscle strands, facial expression and light reflection of the human form. Other unexplained revelations in the work had found the missing emotional link between art and reality.

These characters were in movement—in mid-reaction to being watched, and I caught myself at times gazing intently, waiting for them to move. What were they thinking? What were they about to tell me? These answers were reflected in the skin that they bore—a skin that throbbed and sighed and breathed as I did.

Embarrassed by the belief in the life of these characters and overtaken by the energy emitted from them, I forced myself to stare at the ground for minutes at a time—time to digest the work and process this profound experience.

I walked outside to get some fresh air and absorb some light. Still overwhelmed by the work, I began to cry. Even though the exhibit was laden with black ink, my world had been introduced to a new hue, and I struggled to accept this. I walked down the street and this new color—new perspective—surrounded me, and I wondered if anyone else on the street could see it.

The “My Country Has No Name” exhibit has changed me and inspired me to set much higher standards when engaging my own creativity. This is perhaps the only art exhibit, where I feel I am now a better writer for having seen it.