Portia Munson

Article excerpt


It was on the one-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that I returned to Portia Munson's recent installation - a re-creation of a child's bedroom that colonized every inch of the gallery's exhibition space. That day it resonated eerily with the barrage of television images showing the aftermath of the terrorist act that destroyed a day-care center: parents and grandparents stood in bedrooms that seemed caught in a time warp, furniture and stuffed animals arranged as if their occupants would return at any moment. Munson's installation echoed these chilling rooms: around a child's bed were arranged small armchairs, a settee, and dressing tables, all with flowered upholstery; the room itself scattered with throw rugs and crammed with flowered cushions, bouquets of fake flowers, knickknacks, padded hangers, empty heart-shaped Valentine's Day boxes, and hundreds of small stuffed animals - mostly bunnies. A tent of stitched-together floral housedresses comprised the room's walls and ceiling, this patchwork of garments creating a metaphor for maternal surveillance. Sewn to the surfaces of Munson's pink-fringed throw rugs were flayed toy bunnies, their button eyes peering mournfully from beneath a layer of dirt tracked in by visitors to the show.

That Mike Kelley has "done" stuffed animals before rendered this installation only slightly less compelling. Munson's toy-filled room was evocative less of childhood fears and traumas than of the hysterical parental desire to prevent the child who rules over this domain from growing up. Beds and chairs were covered so completely with stuffed animals that to sit down one had to perch uncomfortably on a surface shared with a flock of small inhabitants. …


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