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Maggie Ordon

I lifted the carefully crafted lid and reached my hand into the satiny pinkness; the softly cushioned cavity enveloped my hand as I glided it in further to discover a hollowed wedge. Rarely does one get to so intimately enter a piece of art (though several of the pieces in the Visualizing Trans exhibit also encouraged audience participation) in which the art and audience interpenetrate each other. The professional model, poised on pink heels in front of the bureau-like skirt supported by three sculpted wooden furniture feet, shifted slightly when I opened the lid. The other model’s bust was extended with a wedge cushion; the hollowed core lined with the same hot pink satin. What boundaries was I, the viewer, transgressing when I opened the “trunk” of a bustled skirt or slipped my hand into the center of the triangular attachment? Was I violating their personal space, reaching into the artist’s past and experience, or challenging the imaginary velvet rope protecting the art work? In these ways, the two pieces offered a physical experience of "trans" for the viewers, models, and artist.

I was drawn not only to the experiential aspect of the work, but also to how the piece explored dress, furniture, gender, and agency. Through “Gibbosity” and her earlier work, Liner is one of the growing number of artists who bring textile, sewing, and dressmaking skills into the art world. However, she is not presenting her finely crafted “garments” or “accessories” as fashion or clothing, but rather as “live sculpture,” thus removing them from the possibility of everyday dress and placing them specifically into the art space. Moreover, she has dressed her models with furniture, suggesting the connections our bodies form with space and objects with which we surround ourselves. The piece joins historical discourses on fashion, furniture, and gender with the artist’s personal position and experiences. Liner also successfully integrates the craft of furniture making with her dressmaking skills.

The pieces break down boundaries between art, history, dress, and furniture as well as create a new space where visitors can engage with how these issues intersect in the pieces, historically, and in their own lives. While the visitor is invited to explore these spaces and objects of “trans,” they must also confront what is not transformed or transgressed and for what reasons. For example, women are dressed in floral patterned upholstery fabric. The attachments physically transform them into domesticated pieces of furniture. They stand still silently, lacking any agency as strangers gaze at or poke and prod them. The pieces extend parts of a woman’s body historically associated with femininity and sexuality. The cushioned pink cavities of the bust extension and bustle exaggerate women’s anatomy, reinforcing the public display of an objectified female gendered body. Nonetheless, the pieces provoke the viewer to reconsider these seemingly natural associations and gendered representations. Through their playful, perhaps uncomfortable, participation, the audience destabilizes assumed categories by engaging with a piece that moves through many.

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