Jere Van Syoc | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jere Van Syoc writes of her seven bizarre, sometimes goofy assemblages in the series "Death Toys" that they "both mock and ward off...domestic violence, road rage, gang warfare," and they do have a totemic quality.

Made of junk found in alleys and at garage sales, they mix phallic aggression and its negation. The figure in The Patient lies on a gurney, one end of which juts out in zigzags that are echoed by pointy protrusions made of bicycle tires near its wheels; the head, arms, and legs are severed, and the penis is an elephant's trunk. The disturbing Shoe Bombs began as a pair of ski boots; sticks of wood and antennae poke from their tops, but the boots curl over a bit, more limp than erect. Chicago Table includes cattle horns; a boom box; PVC pipes, two of them mimicking a muscle car's exhaust system; and a bag containing the artist's grandmother's ashes: Van Syoc says the piece was inspired by her "American spirit--nothing got in her way." The artist paints her works with house paint, then with oil, then with spray paint, creating intense dark colors that add sensuality while muting the aggressiveness of the details. She sometimes sets these works up on the street, partly as a response to drive-by shootings. Woman Made Gallery, 2418 W. Bloomingdale, through July 24. Hours are noon to 7 Wednesday through Friday and noon to 4 Saturday and Sunday; 773-489-8900.

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