“Gelatus,” an exhibition of photographs by Vanessa R. Thompson uses everyday items associated with comfort, such as toys and food, to ladle the familiar into the uncertain.
Using unconventionally posed and colored objects, Thompson says her intent in “Gelatus” is “to serve up an uneasy distrust of the world. Each photograph is a piece of a story, a piece of a dream, a teaser of what is to come, but it is fleeting; tantalizing our appetites and leaving us craving the next morsel.”
Thompson draws energy from the politics of societal contradictions. “In 1960s America, Jell-O was a staple dessert for the housewife to make, a person couldn’t legally send contraceptives or dildos through the mail, and only married women could legally purchase the new hormonal birth control nicknamed ‘the pill,’” she says.
Fast forward to 2020: “Today you can order your all your needs from most online vendors, but openly carrying a dildo will get you in more trouble than openly carrying an assault rifle in some states.” she says. “Laws restricting women’s rights over their own bodies are being drafted in almost every state. We can knit pussy hats with our mothers and grandmothers but still blush at talk of periods in public.” Thompson’s photographs combine the artificial and natural. “I want viewers to thrill over the deep, organic energy of the natural world,” she says, “to feel its lushness, its texture, its smell, its mortality—how it can be ugly, even to the point of repulsion.” But, she adds, “I can never stray too far from its beauty.”