Arts preview: Melissa Vogley Woods: "Boxed" at the Wex

Jim Fischer

Creating the first commissioned work for the Wexner Center for the Arts' The Box film space proved to be quite the feat for Columbus artist Melissa Vogley Woods.

Or, perhaps, quite the feet.

In "Boxed," Vogley Woods explores the influences of the body on space and on institutions, commenting simultaneously on sexuality and gender inequity throughout institutionalized art history. The performative video piece features scale models of the Wexner Center, feet (the artist's) and lots of blue paint.

"Boxed" continues a theme of Vogley Woods' recent work inspired, in part, by foot fetish videos she found on YouTube while researching the history of dance.

"I was interested in these performance videos I saw on YouTube, people dancing in their living rooms or performing on the street, and I came across these foot fetish videos," Vogley Woods said. "They were gendered, but not. They were sexual, but not. So I out these themes in my video series 'Monochrome Suite.'"

The concepts ignited the artist's interest in film as a medium. Primarily a painter, Vogley Woods said she had done work in film before but that "it never made sense with the rest of my work."

Through this new expression on film, Vogley Woods claimed feminine sexuality on behalf of feminism, in part influenced by the work of artist Yves Klein, who was known for covering women's bodies in blue paint and "painting" via body impressions.

"Monochrome Suite" was part of the 2015 Ohio Shorts filmmakers program at the Wexner Center, and introduced film/video curator Jennifer Lange to Vogley Woods' work. Ongoing conversations led Lange to offer the artist a residency, with the idea of creating a work commissioned specifically for The Box.

"It's the first time we've commissioned for the space," Lange said of The Box, a small black box room at the entrance to the center's galleries. "People tend not to spend a lot of time in there, although some do eventually. I thought it would be great to see what Melissa could do there."

Between "Monochrome Suite" and her Wexner residency, Vogley Woods had created "Polychrome Suite" for the Weston Gallery in Cincinnati. The video featured a scale model of the gallery space and performative video of the artist's feet and wet paint.

"It is a metaphor for systems and other things we work against, as a critique of museums and of art history," Vogley Woods said, referencing the idea that a woman's body as an image throughout art history was acceptable but that woman artists have been traditionally underrepresented in museums and galleries.

"So I did video of myself, my own performing body, and made art objects at the same time," she said.

After inserting herself into the Weston space, Vogley Woods wanted to continue to experiment with architectural models in her video work, citing the Wexner Center as being "on my hit list."

"It has distinctive, interesting spaces, and I liked the idea of (the center's architectural grid), this cold structure versus this warm body, a performer messing up the space."

"Boxed" also features Vogley Woods' feet protruding from a scale model of The Box itself, which Vogley Woods hopes will affect how the viewer sees the space.

"I'm imagining people leaving The Box and then going out to the angle of the camera and thinking of giant feet coming out - putting the viewer into the piece in that way," she said.

The film features a selection of music, including what the artist called "stripper music."

"I mimic this strip tease walk. I even took pole dancing classes to learn the moves. It was not good," she joked. "But it's part of a feminist conversation, where I'm claiming that objectifying performance."

The 12-minute film will be shown on a loop. Vogley Woods said the piece works regardless of what point the viewer enters The Box, and she hopes "people will be compelled to stay and figure out what's going on."

2016 Ohio Shorts

Melissa Vogley Woods' "Monochrome Suite" was featured in 2015's Ohio Shorts at the Wexner Center, an annual program open to submissions from filmmakers across the state. The 2016 Ohio Shorts will be screened starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 30.

This year's selected entries were recently announced. They are:

Adult Division Selections

"[wander, wonder]," Catherine Lee, Dublin

"Avatar Manifesto," Kara Gut, North Olmsted

"Dear at Dusk," Heather Taylor, Columbus

"Furious Saint Jack & Otter, Alone," Ethan Roberts, Columbus

"Good White People," Erick Stoll, Cincinnati

"Goodbye Margaret," Nicolette Swift, Columbus

"IGNITE," CCAD Animation Lab, Columbus

"Jawan - New Beginning (Official Visual)," Jawan Davila-Love, Columbus

"Lemonade," Eryn Montgomery, Dayton

"Pangaean Time Lords," Yoni Mizrachi, Columbus

"Riptide Rhapsody," Golden Brown Enterprises, Cincinnati

"Twin Falls," Nathan Hippenmeyer, Xenia

Youth Division Selections

"Arwinn," Cole Dehlendorf, Parker Hao, Sidney Kalouche and Eli Crognale, Gahanna Lincoln High School

"Changing Cars," Jack Campise, Upper Arlington High School

"On Going," Garrett Dahn, Samuel DeCillis and Jacob Metzger, Olentangy Orange High School

"Repetition Madness," Koichi Nakazawa, Hilliard Davidson High School

"Walking the Cow," Grace Lillash, Columbus Alternative High School

"Why She Wears a Mask," Ravyn Isbell, Hilliard Davidson High School

Wexner Center

for the Arts

Through April 30

1871 N. High St.,