Marcia Pitch, The Invisible Woman
May 5 -
May 27, 2023
Detritus found in back alleys
Rusted rickety twisted metal
Panty hose pantyhose
Silicone plastic trapped Dolly
Limbs. Limbs upon limbs
Plastic pictured photos torn
Red. Other colours but mostly red
Strange and disparate objects and imagery are joined and fused into discordant collages and sculptures in Marcia Pitch’s exhibition The Invisible Woman. Across her practice and in the selection of work presented at McClure Gallery, Pitch plays off content that is tongue-in-cheek yet dark and haunting, and ultimately speaks to a series of core concerns centred around care and grief in the face of mental illness and the invisibility of ageing women.
Much of the artist’s life has been dedicated to caregiving––as a mother to three children and a volunteer at COAST, a mental health care out-patient facility in downtown Vancouver. Pitch has described her practice as the dismembering and reconstructing of things. Evident across her paper-based and sculptural collages, the artist’s act of dismembering images and detritus reinvigorates them, opens them to new discursive understandings. Speaking to the invisibility that older women face, the artist is dedicated to exploring women’s desire and pleasure, revelling in the female form by being coyly suggestive. Sex & Death (2021), Sexy Wallpaper (2021), Somersault (2021) and The Red Cloth (2020) demonstrate the unabashed exuberance and joy of exploring women’s bodies in all their loose fleshy wonder and sumptuous excretions, in all their unwieldy and uncontrollable ways.
Pitch collects, repurposes and mingles the uncommon together from what others deem trash, altering the optics on junk. The artist works masterfully from an economical approach, using abandoned objects sparingly but with purpose to create entirely new narratives. The sculptures recall the body: long hoses become arms, gloves suggest hands and the skeleton of an umbrella is posed as an abstract bent human form. This emerges in works such as Glass Balls (2022), Barebones (2022) and Black Hose (2022) in which disparate industrial materials come together in the artist’s vision and unfurl as gangly limbs, hanging like loose flesh or scrotum. Pitch is particularly drawn to schmatta, a Yiddish term she uses to describe the industrial aspect of her materials combined with the idea of the material as refuse. The artist also returns to her old works to disassemble and reuse materials multiple times.
The exhibition pays close attention as well to the precarity that women face in their lives and societally as they grow older. Pitch explores this aspect through pairings of sexually suggestive imagery. The female condition is reflected starkly here, pointing to stereotypes often attributed to older women as being useless, sexless Old Hags. The titular sculpture The Invisible Woman (2019) towers in the front room. Constructed from a large metal frame, she wears a sheer robe, green and yellow light bulbs for nipples, a minuscule tree where her head would be. Lights flash within her body, illuminating her emptiness. Pitch overturns these negatives by relishing in unmasking women’s desire and pleasure within their bodies.
When I encounter the artist’s work my sense of her dismembering also involves what I recognize as a shape of confusion holding each artwork in place. This confusion is familiar to me: it carries a sense of nostalgia, comfort and yet also an angsty malaise that doesn’t rest. As someone living with mental illness, I lead my life through a muddle of confusing circumstances. When I come into contact with Pitch’s collages, I recognize a similar overarching chaotic welcome. I use the word confusion not in its most recognizable definition of misunderstanding or lack of clarity, but rather to denote the loss of order, a jumble of disorder. Confusion marks the mind, the terrain of those living with mental illness and for those loving them. As a verb, confusion stems from the Latin confusio or confundere meaning ‘to mingle together,’ an apt consideration of how to see collage.
Visiting The Invisible Woman, it becomes clear to me that confusion could be read as Pitch’s methodology. The viewer’s experience might feel like a confused mindscape––wandering through a jungle of discarded and reassembled pieces of plastic and junk, torn and ripped paper. For Pitch, her work and methodology are not only about visibility for women but it is also a healing journey to work through her own confusion and grief of caring for a son with mental illness. Tearing paper, finding or creating that which wasn’t visible before, the hidden in amongst the seen: finding refuse, the old that holds its own history, its own story and beauty, rebuilding it, play and pleasure. Dismembering confusion and reconstructing joy are at the heart of Pitch’s art practice and her exhibition at McClure Gallery. This collection of work boldly slices into the heart of the matter. Here, Pitch declares we are not the invisible ones; she declares “See me and hear me and see us all.” She twists space and air apart, opening our eyes to that which is just in front of us but disguised, making visible what we are not able to see.
*Dedicated with love to the memory of Rex Terpening, Dr. Sandra Reines M.D., and all those struggling with and lost to mental illness. May you rest in peace and power.*
Maeve Hanna (she/her) is a queer writer of settler descent, grateful to be living in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia), the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. Maeve has pursued studies at York University, University of Leeds, UQÀM, and University of Manitoba on location in Iceland. Over the last decade, she has published art criticism nationally and internationally.