MALAISE: Confronting the Uncomfortable

By Kiersten Remster '17 

As nearly every American has also experienced, I stand in line at the grocery store. Ahead of me, I see a mother and her daughter waiting in line. The daughter is toddling around, picking up merchandise and products she should not be playing with. She pulls on her mother’s pant leg, trying every maneuver to get her attention. The mother seemingly ignores her child’s desperate call for attention, as her eyes glue to the white screen of her iPhone. A distraction within this family structure makes not only the child and mother uncomfortable, but the viewer feels the sense of tension and uncomfortableness from this relationship.

This scene of distraction is what University of Dayton alum, Mallory Tay, incorporated into her recent exhibit titled MALAISE. Showcased in ArtStreet’s White Box Gallery, Tay beautifully crocheted brightly colored yarn to tell the story of juxtaposing family life with dysfunction. Tay’s own childhood tension of growing up in a household that encouraged distractions between mother and daughter served as inspiration for her installation. Whimsically assorted yarn spill from the rafters of the gallery in organized, vibrant tapestry-like arrangements.

Audio installments playing sequences of family conflicts and arguments roar through the gaps of the fabric, piercing any happy memory of nostalgia from our childhood. Amidst the youthful colors of the yarn draping to the floor, pain and sorrow from family members sinks deeper into our subconscious.

Immersed into the suspended hangings are two figures covered in the crocheted material. A maternal figure stands with her fingers glued to texting on her cell phone while a younger figure grabs a hold of the mother’s body. The child eagerly and desperately clings, seeking the love and attention she needs. The cellphone, like the figures’ bodies, is encased in the yarn weaving to reveal the contrast between nostalgic childhood feelings of comfort versus the technological distraction evoking frustration.

As visitors move past the presence of the tense figures, a path between the fabrics guides them to a final figure. A few yards away, the child appears again as a repetition but the body positioning in this pose is quite stunning. Placed with one knee bent to raise the foot on a pile of crocheted fabric, the child reaches for a rope of yarn tumbling down from the suspended hangings. The figure throws her head back, allowing for her long braided hair to spill over her back touching the floor. Tay’s casting of the figure with her chest opened up and neck extended evoke feelings of freedom. The posture provokes energy and a sense of motion, bringing the child to life and action. The energy of betrayal feeds off of the youthful figure, as her ultimate decision to depart from family dysfunction involves abandonment.

Tay’s construction of the installation challenges us to interact with this familial commentary. Why do we feel so uncomfortable to see the comfort of yarn juxtaposed with the tension and heartbreak that lies within a family? Does the nostalgic yarn bring us back to childhood memories or does the audio portion of family arguments provoke times of upset feelings? Does the placement of the figures grab your attention?

Tay’s installation serves as a building block for her artistic journey. Malaise is the beginning of an exploration of confronting the moment of awareness. She intends to continue her motif of knowing how every little moment affects the grand scheme of matters as she progresses and creates additional pieces for her exhibit down the road.

With the visual imagery of Tay’s sociological perspective of family dysfunction, we are able to ask ourselves where the 21st century family is headed. Please stop by ArtStreet’s White Box Gallery and discover the role of distraction within the family model. Malaise is currently on display until February 19th.

Kiersten Remster is a sophomore Art History and German student at University of Dayton. She is the new student arts writer at ArtStreet and is very excited to be a part of the ArtStreet family. Kiersten has been a competitive swimmer her whole life and is continuing her swimming career through the Dayton Master's program. She is also serving on the Academic Affairs Committee this year as vice president and is looking forward to working with faculty in order to improve Dayton's academic curriculum.

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