Megan Wilson    
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"Swell: New work by Amy Berk, Carolyn Castaño and Megan Wilson" by Jordan Essoe , July 27, 2006


Night Bloom by Megan Wilson, 2006, Meridian Gallery


Swell: New work by Amy Berk, Carolyn Castaño and Megan Wilson

The loop of The Byrds' cover of "All I Really Want to Do" suitably provides a mantra for the mellow, contented brand of feminism employed by Amy Berk, Megan Wilson and Carolyn Castaño throughout the threesome's 10-year reunion show at Meridian Gallery. Technically, the song belongs to Berk's "Penguin Nation" installation, which consists of a small audience of cloth penguin-like forms clustered on the floor in front of a video, like a classroom of children. The wild penguins hobbling about on the video itself are also childlike, as is Wilson's companion installation of country-western song lyrics branded into suede (e.g., "You Looked at Her, You Looked at Me, I Knew That You Would Marry Me"). In the second room of the gallery are Castaño's mixed-media paintings and Wilson's "Night Bloom," an amazing installation of psychedelic fabrics, bird cutouts and eddies of sequins pinned against brightly painted rainbow walls. It is essentially similar to, but a step forward from, a piece called "Sunset" that Wilson did for The Lab last year. Looking like the impossible childhood bedroom, it continues the theme of domesticity, but not with the tongue-in-cheek demeanor of the original "Swell" exhibition. The present show is not a divorce from the artists' more overt feminist themes of a decade ago but an admission that they have changed, that feminism has changed and so has the feminist vocabulary and its instincts. These artists, now mothers and wives in their late 30s, appear to take for granted the precepts of "choice" feminism, which proclaims that women can pursue conventional gender roles without being traitors to social progress. The personal is still political, and the theme of maternity and domesticity is appropriate to the times. Nationwide, the percentage of stay-at-home moms is higher than 10 years ago, steadily increasing every year since 1998. The irony (you knew it was in there somewhere) is that none of these women appears to actually be part of that statistic.