A room of one’s own: where she can be herself. She can raise her voice. She can make a mess. Or, like Virginia Woolf wrote in her novel, ‘A Room of One’s Own’: it is a place where she can speak her mind.
New York born and based artist Michele Mirisola’s current exhibition at Beefhaus, titled ‘Of One’s Own’, is a show about her studio: a place where she works, creates, escapes, breathes. The show consists of paintings of varying scale, installed in Beefhaus’ gruff and battered main room, charging the space with a level of domesticity it hasn’t had in some time. Beefhaus is a DIY, artist-run space located near downtown Dallas. One of the newest members of Beefhaus, artist Randy Guthmiller, went to school at Hampshire College with Mirisola and co-curated her solo show here.
Mirisola’s work is an investigation into our memories of time and place – how a space can influence our emotions. Within a place where we create, disarm ourselves, our memories can slip through our fingers, taking various forms and truths.
There are a lot of chairs in these paintings. Mirisola seems to have an affection for these carved, fitted objects. Each chair has its own personality, its errors are hand-made. The narrative is also about the people who sat there and the conversations they had or memories they made. The chairs fill most of the painting’s interiors, along with tables, kitchen counters and sinks. A painting you see in Beefhaus’ front foyer might show up later in another of Mirisola’s paintings installed in the hallway, as a subtle reminder of process and proximity.
Chairs bleed in and out of perspective, sometimes just a cross-section of legs hovering above the floor. This technique is reminiscent of how one fills out details when reflecting on a memory: half of a table here, a part of a sofa there, floating hands. These delicate paintings are traced with the ghosts of Matisse, yet stand alone as diary-like entries of a singular hand.
There are details in this series that feel familiar. Obscured photos sit on tables, ghosts of loved ones past. The rooms are messy in a vulnerable way, yet ordered as well. These are the private, intimate spaces, various studies over the years, that the artist has worked in. There is a hand towel rack, book-filled cases, paintings stacked in corners. Mirisola lets us in to a place we do not deserve to be. Yet, looking around, we can see the little considerations that make these studios a second home.
The space of Beefhaus has an additional room down a short hallway, where the walls are painted black. It is a small space, dubbed the safe room due to the placement of a safe left behind from the gallery’s earlier incarnation as a jewelry shop. Through Mirisola’s work, this room has been transformed, theoretically, into a champagne room of sorts. Here, the works takes a different turn, yet no less tender. Against the stark, black backdrop are hung small, delicate dollar paintings, images of nude women, posing across dollar bills. With this thoughtful installation, in this tight room, it feels as though you are in a VIP room or inside an intimate mind.
Some of the models are the artist’s friends, other images she found from researching the sexual politics of porn, observing how women of color are depicted differently than white women in pornographic media. The codification of bodies, the female form, sexuality, are powerfully observed through these tiny pieces. Mirisola is giving us everything she’s got. She’s inviting us into her most cherished spaces and showing us that sensitivity is a deeply political thing.
Lee Escobedo is a Dallas-based, critic, curator, and founder of the ‘What is Cinema?’ Podcast and the award-winning publication, THRWD Magazine.