Ginger Roberts came to Chicago four years ago for graduate study as a painter, but she was already fed up with painting. When she got here, she started cutting her finished canvases into bits, carting them down to the supermarket to be weighed and packaged like so much hamburger. "I needed something more real," she says: "A real something, instead of a painted something."
The product of a long line of flinty mountain women, Roberts has a Tennessee twang and a pair of mismatched eyes, one mostly brown, the other the gray of a winter sky. When she turned them on Andy Warhol's pristine pop-art mockups of Brillo boxes, she knew she had met her new medium. She could take domestic objects like Warhol's soap pads or Jeff Koons's gleaming, Lucite-encased vacuum cleaners past their polished surfaces in a way the boys hadn't dreamed of. Since then Roberts has turned all sorts of domestic detritus to art--everything from sink sludge to pet-fur balls.
Her show last fall (at MWMWM Gallery) included S.O.S., a series of rusting steel-wool pads stuck to the wall at eye level, each oozing a tail of soapy gook, and Personal Maintenance, a year's worth of dryer lint, mounted and framed, each wash day's pale, cottony excretion flattened under glass like a laboratory specimen.
As feminist work, she says, domestic subjects are "old"; she has an itch to make her art more universal. Soap pads have given way to typewriters in some of her most recent pieces. But when Randolph Street Gallery asked her to scrub their floor (something she first did as performance art three years ago) for "Under Contract," an exhibit designed to explore commissioned work by contracting with artists, she agreed to do it.
Roberts will perform the ultimate domestic act at the opening of "Under Contract" at Randolph Street, 756 N. Milwaukee, Friday, January 15, from 5 to 8. Call 666-7737 for more information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Loren Santow.