dancing through life: the art of ann sims rath dugan, a retrospective of the artist’s mother organized by Jessica and her father Bill Dugan, covered 30 years of Ann’s drawing, prints and collections and included a Day of the Dead altar and a tower of 2000 pieces of Tupperware Ann collected. As an example of the some the work in the show, above are images from the series Gutter Objects that were made in and shortly after graduate school (1977-80) using hand made papers, found meat packaging, plastic, gauze and pigment culled from Army Surplus and second hand shops, applied in layers and “squashed” in huge presses.

Squashed realities — disconnected and recycled by the plastic interchangeability of self-destructing parts of a modern-fated society. from Ann’s notebook, 1977

In the 1970s Ann created a series of visceral, messy, dark, vaginal, mysterious, sensitive, sexual and complex objects entitled, Gutter Objects.  What I was most intrigued by was her immediate and intense use of materials to create these atmospheric works. Ann’s works reminds me of why I adore about post minimal second wave feminist art –the radicality of using the feminine body, not as an object of traditional desire, but as a place where women actually live, breath, create, feel, think and express themselves.

We are transported by Ann’s objects into her intimate space. We are allowed to see, feel and think about what it is to live and embody in the wet layers, folds, holes, slits and interior spaces that are the female body. In these works the vaginal spaces are not only life-giving, but show the wounds, blood and stains of both love and hurt. There is a wonderful legacy in 1970s feminist works like Ann’s that broke convention and followed another set of curiosities, believing in the deep intelligence of the body.

by artist Pam Strugar

dancing through life: the art of ann sims rath dugan opened on Day of the Dead, November 1, 2009 at the Harlin Museum in West Plains, Missouri, the artist and her mother’s hometown. 80 page, full color exhibition catalog at www.blurb.com.