A Room of Surreal Mindscapes

Camille Iemmolo and Jon Langford Exhibit: The Lonely Stage Thomas Masters Gallery, September. 9–23, 2016

Strolling along North Avenue one sunny September afternoon, I entered Thomas Masters Gallery on a whim. As I entered the back room, I was transfixed by the sight of a stage at the front of the room and artworks lining the three adjacent walls. This all-encompassing installation/performance piece, “The Lonely Stage,” placed me as much within Camille Iemmolo’s world as within her art.
The room was akin to being inside a dream. Besides the stage, three large (60” x 60”) mixed media works dominated the room. Clothing, presumably Camille’s, hung from the gallery’s lighting track. Four of artist/musician Jon Langford’s tables and a dozen western-themed tabletop wall hangings completed the picture.

Jon Langford and Camille Iemmolo (atop drums) on set of “The Lonely Stage”
Camille Iemmolo, The Telling Tree, mixed media,
60 by 60 in.

Iemmolo calls her works “surreal mindscapes.” A baby’s crib was titled “Emergency Cart of Lost Dreams and Forgotten Words.” Several works, like “The Telling Tree,” made use of thick, shiny white cord knotted like a hangman’s noose. Combined with Langford’s western-themed art, as in “Bonehead,” the overall impression was quite fey.
As I walked around the installation, I had the impression that Camille’s pieces were conveying loss, absence and death. The stage had a drum set along with burlap bags of seed corn in which two womens’ legs were sticking out upside down.
The image evoked pure fun but I also thought of the saying, “robbing the seed corn,” connoting a depletion of future crop harvests.
Only later did I learn that the loss was real: her brother, Paul, had died last November. He was a special needs sibling who loved listening to music and dancing with Camille. That musical connection was captured with two performances in the gallery by Langford’s band, the Mekons.
Iemmolo’s art may seem playful and naïve but, as her largest mixed media installation warns, “Danger—Do Not Mistake Me for the Wall Flower.”
She is an artist with a fertile imagination who shapes her collage-like materials with complete command into haunting works.

To9m Mullaney Chicago Editor (Retr’d)

Volume 31 number 2, November / December 2016 p 30

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