E.V. Day

Exhibition: Mar 24 – May 22, 2011

Saber-toothed tigers, more appropriately referred to as saber-toothed cats, are the primary subject of E.V. Day’s expressive tableau, CatFight. Continuing her investigation of issues of femininity through the utilization of garments, accessories, and other objects, saber-toothed cat skeletons tangled in battle serve as metaphor for a power struggle or “catfight” between formidable women fighting over territory or dominance.

Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer encounters the skeletons of two adult female saber-toothed cats suspended from the ceiling with thick, plastic monofilament lines (commonly used for fishing). These iconic übermothers of the animal kingdom are frozen in the midst of an aggressive gesture, where one exerts supremacy over the other. The cats, viewable in the round, loom large. Each figure is ivory in color except for silver leaf adorning their teeth and claws, alluding to accessories that might distinguish a female from a male.

While the bones on display are casts from animals discovered in the La Brea tar pits in urban Los Angeles, California, Day discovered in her research that they have a San Antonio connection, as well. During the ice age, these super-felines roamed caves near San Antonio, and the skeleton of a local saber-toothed cat is housed at the Texas Natural Science Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Day’s installation transcends traditional museum displays with dramatic stage lighting and prominent, glistening support lines. Furthermore her concept for this piece is quite different from the didactic goals of a natural history exhibition.

Day’s previous sculptural works often utilized costumes, undergarments, and wetsuits-materials that typically cover one’s body-to tell stories. For CatFight, she chose to focus on the figure, albeit skeletal. This shift in focus on presence rather than absence is a relatively new direction for the artist, who began working earnestly with the figure in Portable Cat Fight from 2007. In that work she took two cat skeletons, the size of domesticated felines, and strung them between the exterior walls of a birdcage-like cube. Unlike the cats in Portable Cat Fight, here the heavy skeletons are weighted by gravity rather than other methods of attachment, such as hoops, a signature of Day’s work.

An intriguing synthesis of natural history diorama, boxing ring, and soap-opera catfight, CatFight reanimates the bones of an extinct creature to make a strong yet playful comment on contemporary gender stereotypes. The bones take on new significance and meaning: they can be seen as surrogates for actresses pulling hair and scratching at each other over the attention of a lover, or over the jealousy that occurs when one’s social standing eclipses another’s. Any meaningful spectacle requires the presence of spectators, and the snakes in the exhibition serve as a masculine foil to the felines’ feminine association. However the piece is interpreted, it’s clear that Day is successful at evoking powerful narratives through her manipulation of objects.


E.V. Day

New York, New York, USA

E.V. Day’s deconstructive style puts all clothing at risk, from women’s undergarments to wedding gowns, Chanel suits, and replica dresses-nothing is safe from the New York artist’s “Exploding Couture” technique. Additionally she has utilized unorthodox artistic media including cat skeletons, children’s plastic toys, and replicas of animal tongues to touch on femininity and the humor of gender roles.
Day received her MFA from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut, in 1995. She has had many solo exhibitions, including those at Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art, New York, New York (2011); New York City Opera in Lincoln Center (2010); Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Illinois (2008); Lever House Art Collection, New York (2006); Deitch Projects, Art Basel Miami, Florida (2006); and The Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria (formerly Philip Morris Companies), New York (2001). Selected group exhibitions include Sensate: Bodies and Design, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California (2009); Fashion Accidentally, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan (2007); Rapture: Art’s Seduction by Fashion, Barbican Centre, London, England (2002); and Whitney Biennial 2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2000). In 2016, Day was awarded the prestigious Rome Prize for Visual Arts by the American Academy in Rome.

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Heather Pesanti

Buffalo, New York, USA

Since 2008, Pesanti has served as Curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where she has organized curatorial projects including Bad Habits (2009); Artists in Depth: Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Delaunay (2011), and, most recently, Surveyor (2011). She is currently organizing a large-scale historical exhibition on the dynamic cultural scene in Buffalo in the 1970s, scheduled for March 2012 at the Albright-Knox, called Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-Garde in the 1970s. She is also adjunct professor at the University at Buffalo, where she teaches in the Visual Studies Department. Prior to her position in Buffalo, she was the Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she worked onLife on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International. Pesanti holds masters degrees in cultural anthropology from the University of Oxford, England, and in modern/contemporary art history from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.
Photo by Tom Loonan

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