What happens when the teddy bear becomes the trigger – when an object both comforts and stresses? This question looms in Amber Cobb’s latest series presented in Solace. Progressing the artist’s practice rooted in psychological and physical attachments, these objects, neither wholly paintings nor sculptures, exist between distinctions. With surfaces at once grotesque and decorative notions of abjection and attraction find themselves challenged within the same form.
As described in psychological terms, transitional objects provide stability during periods of separation. In childhood they often appear as familiar concrete forms – a favorite blanket, stuffed animal or even an imaginary friend used to replace the sense of calm provided by a nurturing mother. As one ages, the object may be discarded as a person learns to internalize methods of self-soothing, while for others it evolves into more subtle totems that can be camouflaged into everyday life – that lucky shirt or piece of jewelry worn during an important interview or date. More abstractly, transitional objects can morph into small daily rituals and even relationships themselves.
In contrast exists the trigger – any stimulus that causes someone to recall a traumatic memory. At times obvious in nature such as a violent image or sound, and at others unassuming and difficult to predict – say the frozen foods section at the grocery store¬ – if happened upon unexpectedly, these stressors can catapult a person into a painful flashback. These exacerbations of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often leave people stunned, disoriented or even experiencing violent outbursts of their own, further deepening the effects of old traumas. However, interestingly, triggers can also serve as essential tools of recovery. Not unlike building up immunity to venom through incremental dosing of the same poison, arguments have emerged that controlled exposure to known triggers within an environment perceived as safe is essential to integrating disassociated memories back into one’s personal narrative. The same blade that cuts us, cauterizes the wound.
What consequences occur then if the transitional object and the trigger find themselves intertwined? In this latest body of work, Cobb’s treatment of seemingly contrasting materials appears distinctly blended by a tender and at times sensual treatment in comparison to the artist’s prior confrontations. At the same time a noticeable expansion has begun to take place into new domestic forms. No longer confined to the bed frame as in previous series, evidence of the sexualized body has spread to consume blankets, bathmats and toys now embedded with hair, skin, and corporeal fluids. What is happening? Is it possible through exposure to one’s images of the abject that a new frame emerges where dread can become pleasure, or is the constant interaction with trauma simply tainting ever more innocent territory? Maybe as the platitude for the cycles of healing and suffering tells us, “only time can tell.”
All The Things I Might Have Humped
All The Things I Might Have Humped, a site-specific installation, was featured in Jokes of Nature curated by Don Fodness and Geoffrey Shamos. This pieces explores childhood masturbation through the female lens. Stuffed animals, pillows, and bedding descend from the ceiling all drenched and coated in white plastic.
The Dreamer's Dillema
As I Adapt
As I Adapt concrete and metal
Concrete and Metal
54 in x 75 in x 16 in
Not Exactly RedLine Denver, CO
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design Sculpture Park Lakewood, CO
Concrete is a rigid material utilized to create foundation and stability. The most admirable quality of the material is its ability to absorb the surrounding elements. It endures the harshest conditions by slowly adapting to rising and cooling temperatures. The mattress is at once a haven and a place of repressed anxiety. When we lay down to rest we are at our most vulnerable state: exposed, unguarded, and defenseless to the world. In a form of altered consciousness we lay ourselves bare. While awake we are rendered resilient. Through alternating states of awareness and slumber we are tempered to the world.
The Skin of 1000 Lovers
Just Because Its Wet Doesn't Mean It Likes It
Alterations Disconnect Memory from the Dream
Amber Cobb has long drawn on the duality between the attractive and the abject in her highly personal sculptures and drawings. Mattresses, stripped of their initial form and re-stretched over new frames are mounted to the wall as both sculptural objects and paintings. Treating their surfaces with household liquids – ink, motor oil, coffee and soap, Cobb transforms the soft quilted material giving each piece the appearance of a well-worn receptacle of the human body. With additional layers of silicone poured and painted on, these objects acquire a glossy ‘just used’ quality that, as the artist describes, depict “the burden of life with both living and dying stains”.
Within Cobb’s intricate drawings, many delicate hairline marks, and at times actual hair, also connect to the body. Undulating bundles spill over one another tapering to stretched sinews. These tissue-like shapes, like the mattress works, are also coated with a silicone skin. Graceful execution and minimal composition contrast corporeal content as again attraction and repulsion coexist. Inviting, the glossy rubberized surface at once begs a tactile response, while if left unprotected, attracts the detritus of its surroundings.
The title of the exhibit references the first few moments of waking when any body movement will affect one’s ability to recall the contents of the previous night’s subconscious journey.