Valery Jung Estabrook: “Hand Held”
Opening Reception, May 11, 2018, 6-8pm
Auxiliary Projects is pleased to present Hand Held, a solo exhibition by Valery Jung Estabrook, on view from May 11 – June 17, 2018. There will be an opening reception on Friday May 11th from 6-8pm.
Hand Held delves into the experiences of grief, loss, memory, and healing. Painted in pastel hues, the gallery echos a retail skincare boutique — in the real world, a place where immaculate professionals proffer small objects and remedies promising self-care and healing. In Estabrook’s installation, a pristine “beauty bar” counter signifies another kind of aid that aesthetics and science can offer. In works such as “Refresh and Reset” and “Night Mask”, Estabrook displays candy-colored, palm-sized sculptures in the shape of makeup compacts in department store vitrines. When held in a viewer’s bare hand, videos spontaneously play inside the silicone sculptures, each miniature screen presenting imagery mined from Estabrook’s memories following her father’s death last year. When Estabrook returned to her home in Taos afterwards, she was inspired by the natural beauty of the Southwest, its abundant life and dramatic skies, to focus her creativity on her emotional restoration. This exhibition is the result of that process.
Displaying artifacts of pain and relief in a retail setting, Estabrook’s installation also reminds us what the word ‘consume’ means outside of it: when we are consumed by grief, we soothe ourselves however we can, covering the lacerating sand grains with pearl.
Two of Estabrook’s single-channel videos play on the surrounding gallery walls, each featuring hands continuously reaching out toward the viewer. In “My Hands are Medicine,” Estabrook’s mother’s voice repeats the title phrase in Korean, “Nae soni yakseonida,” something she would often say to comfort the artist when she was feeling unwell.
The sense of touch is a central theme in Hand Held, even when no touching occurs. The use of electronics in the gallery — emotional connections over a distance, triggered by touch — bring this concept to full flower. This touch without contact refers to the loss of the physical body in death while also providing consolation to viewers for whatever personal pain they may be feeling. Instead of art’s general inclination to offer questions, this exhibition presents potential solutions. Heaven knows we are all in need of a comforting gesture.