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Art People: Mary Brogger, heavy metal mama, gets pragmatic

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Mary Brogger was cruising the spines at Myopic Books last winter--a conceptual artist on the prowl for concepts--when she picked up William James. Eureka! It was love at first read. "No absolutes, truth depends on practical outcomes, process is all;" she says, rattling off the charms of James's old line on pragmatism. "I was predisposed to it. It's what I had been practicing all along."

Brogger, a motorcycle mama with ice blue eyes and a pixie's grin, had already established a body of sculptural work that stood certain "absolutes" on their ears. Her delicately patterned Persian rugs, brocade chairs, and damask curtains, all cut out of steel, defied traditional, constraining women's roles.

For her current show at N.A.M.E. gallery, Brogger employed a Mobius strip to evoke the Jamesian idea of "no absolutes," twisting a piece of paper with two distinct sides into a single, endless surface. She also rigged the show's opening-night performance to give herself something to do when she came face-to-face with her public. Guests at the reception found her installing the show--hauling a drill around, lifting 14-foot mirrors into place. There's a conceptual rationale for this, but the practical outcome was that she was purposefully engaged.

"Part of me is an egomaniac," she says. "I love to be the center of attention. But the reason I'm in sculpture is that I don't feel I can communicate verbally. The only way I can be a public person is if there's a role to play."

Brogger's show, "Strip," consists of three hinged seating arrangements, two mirrors, and a video of a faceless mason grouting a brick wall. The lighting from the previous show has been left in place, Brogger says, to suggest continuity. If that's a tad too subtle for some viewers to pick up on, she doesn't mind.

"Strip" continues at N.A.M.E., 1255 S. Wabash, through June 25. Gallery hours are noon to 6 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. Call 554-0671 for more information. For a look at one of Brogger's sumptuous iron curtains, visit Oak Tree Restaurant on the top floor at 900 N. Michigan.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Loren Santow.

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