In Rachel Foss's work, outlines of the everyday | Art Review | Chicago Reader

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In Rachel Foss's work, outlines of the everyday

The cartoonist and illustrator depicts life's little joys and frustrations in "This Was Supposed to Help," a new show at Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery.

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Cartoonist and illustrator Rachel Foss, in the past few weeks, was hit by a cab, took a spectacular fall on the ice, and was roofied—as in a stranger dropped Rohypnol in her drink. On Valentine's Day. Paramedics found Foss passed out in her bathtub, where she'd been angrily eating carrots. That's quite a streak. But on February 8, the night that "This Was Supposed to Help" opened, it seemed like Foss's stars were finally aligning. The gallery was packed and her work, exhibited for the first time, was selling. Even better, Foss's longtime crush was in attendance. He asked her out for a drink after the show.

Professional validation. Financial gain. Romantic victory. Foss's spare, often melancholy drawings explore the faint joys and casual injuries of everyday existence. Through her work, which is not difficult to read as autobiographical, she reveals herself as someone looking for love but not defined by the search. She acknowledges the despair that an unringing phone can inspire, as well as the satisfaction of initiating an anonymous sexual encounter. Her self-presentation is complex, contradictory. Foss admits she's trying to have it all, but still falling short. Her crush ditched her at the bar after the show, by the way, without explanation.

Much of the work here is culled from larger pieces—for instance, pages pulled from comics like Foss's self-published Empty Bed. Foss says it's strange to see her work like that, devoid of any larger context; I think it's an intriguing introduction. A snippet of the narrative—that's the most we understand of people anyway. I should mention that "This Was Supposed to Help," curated by gallery owner Lindsey Meyers, also includes drawings by Scott Marvel, which are excellent and deserve to be seen. But I had room here for only a fragment of the story, and I wanted Rachel Foss to have it all.

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