MICHELLE RAWLINGS
EMPATHICALISM
3 - 17 March 2012

Oliver Francis Gallery presents Empathicalism, a solo exhibition of work by Dallas native Michelle Rawlings.

Rawlings takes the experience of growing up in suburban North Dallas as a jumping off point to examine the role of cultural institutions such as school and church on an adolescent sense of identity. Normalizing influences are evidenced in everything from the artist’s high school yearbook page, (enlarged as a giant wall tapestry), to the feminine/ mother gender role she takes as a teenager in the pageant of the ‘Creche’, a Nativity scene staged during the last week of Advent. A painting made after Courbet’s ‘Origin of the World’ is presented between curtains as both altar and peep show; it becomes implicated in the Christmas story and as an exploration of self and femininity for the artist. Rawlings works in painting, film, video, and a variety of media, in which it becomes unclear what is autobiography and what is performance.

The show title takes its name from a musical called ‘Funny Face’, in which a fictional philosophy called Empathicalism serves as a stand-in for Existentialism. As fiction, the philosophy is whatever is sounds like, or seems like, it is nothing but the projection of ‘seriousness’. In the movie script, Empathicalism is defined as the experience of relating to other people without the use of language. The culture of Christianity is based upon a similar humanistic impulse and insubstantial wish: the impossible attempt to empathize with the Christ, the Virgin, or other Biblical characters. Theatricality becomes an essential part of this experience.

Michelle Rawlings was born in Dallas, TX in 1980 and is currently a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design.
 
 
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