The gap between our ideal homes and the lived reality of our overgrown, patched-up, and slightly worn habitats can be an ongoing negotiation at the best of times. Dawn Cerny’s title for this exhibition, Les Choses (Things), references the 1965 novel by French author Georges Perec, which follows a young Parisian couple dreaming of the good life in their overstuffed apartment. Tangible and intangible “things” are at the center of their lives, and the couple is suspended between part-time jobs and dreams of wealth, leisure, and freedom—paralyzed by the vastness of their desires.
Les Choses features sculptures that embody mindscapes. Cerny answers modernist demands for elegance and clean lines with an aesthetic that reimagines the shape of necessity. Like Perec’s novel, objects convey different psychological and emotional states and are the protagonists of Cerny’s installation. Sagging, slumping, leaning, they provide makeshift support for other functional things: a painting, a glass jar, a ceramic vase. They shapeshift into people, places, and blank spaces where their enigmatic titles act as prompts for possible stories, dreams, and memories to be completed by the viewer.
Dawn Cerny (American, born 1979) is the 2020 winner of the Betty Bowen Award. Established in 1977 to honor the legacy of Betty Bowen—an enthusiastic supporter of Northwest contemporary art—the annual award celebrates a Northwest artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work.