Conceptualizing the Consolarium

As Amy Brener defines it, a ‘consolarium’ is ‘a place for consoles and consolation…it is a collision site: time periods crash and interweave, while meaningful and throwaway objects fuse into hybrid structures. Anachronistic thinking takes place here, and existential musings are transmitted through dollar store junk.”

Dollar store junk is certainly present in Brener’s first solo show, on view now at Jack Barrett Gallery. Her sculptures, made from urethane foam, resin, silicone and other materials molded and died various colors, are at once beautiful and grotesque. Contained within this blend of materials is a mix of the man-made and the natural. Pressed ferns and flowers are arranged amongst floss picks, safety pins and Q-tips.

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These pieces could be viewed in many ways: as a commentary on the accumulation of junk, the endless production of detritus, or perhaps turning garbage into something beautiful — art by recycling. Brener has named the pieces in this collection ‘Omni-Kits,’ and it is a fitting title. Within each of these works are useful items, presenting a sort of emergency kit, like the ‘minimergency’ pouches you can find in any women’s store. Brener argues that these useful, yet disposable devices are overlooked in our society, and she presents them in forms that evoke devotional statues or altarpieces, asserting their worth.

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But there also seems to be something deeper happening amidst the cluttered surfaces of these sculptures, something more than just a commentary on what may or may not be beautiful. There are objects of violence within Brener’s works — a gun motif and x-acto knives — scattered amongst the mundane — tacks and screws, rubber bands and birthday cake candles. Perhaps she is also commenting on the proliferation of violence and our immunity to it. The devastation that a gun inflicts becomes another commonplace reality of our days, right there alongside birthdays and flossing. After all, as of early December, there were more mass shootings than days had passed in the year. Another everyday occurrence. Or maybe I’m getting too existential, falling victim to the concept of the consolarium.

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Hurry to see for yourself. Show closes December 20th!