Megan Whitmarsh: “Arts & Leisure Section” @ Los Angeles Municipal Gallery

There is something so feminine about Megan Whitmarsh’s work – her requirement that all things turn soft – the plant pot, the newspaper, the mirror – objects with their own weight and materials turned equal into quilted puffs, to match the pillows that sit in a circular way, under a small living room like bench. From the ceiling hung multiple of these cushy planters, the leaves of the plants also turned into tiny pillows, held by the crochet ropes that might be found in a hippie commune, your grandmother’s house, or an Echo Park bungalow, with a soft murmuring cat inside.

I sat there in the floor while my friend read the “paper,” also made into a soft thing, its columns devoted to suggestions on slowing down written by others: “turn your phone into a seashell and listen to the ocean,” for example. Or “Hear God.“ So I was surprised when I heard the very digital video game like soundtracks behind the female meditative voice – offered over headphones, as a part of the experience. This upended my first thought about femininity – reminding me – with its intimidating building block like structure, a linear robot melody; the melody of a pixelated robot, of the foremost message of first wave feminism that is still true today: everything is constructed.

The piece was a part of a larger show called “Loitering is Delightful,” including a Lani Trock’s delightful ceiling full of bougevvilla branches, floating, chandelier-like, above the audience. While laying on our backs on mats on the floor, we could act as if we were a baby looking up at a mobile from inside a crib, staring, with wonderment, of how things drift and move, sometimes drastically, with only the slightest bit of wind. The whole exhibit offered a childlike yet sophisticated view of the world; asking us to remember an innocence that leads to observation and reflection. And also, perhaps, some simple pleasures.

Image: Megan Whitmarsh, “Arts & Leisure Section,” 2019. Embroidery thread, cotton, canvas, polyester, wood, foam objects, headphones, sound. Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. Photograph by Jeff McLane

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