Critics’ Picks

Marc Steinmetz, Hash Pipe, 1999, C-print, 16 x 24”.


“Paper Moon”

Bernard A. Zuckerman Museum of Art
492 Prillaman Way MD 3104
August 30 - December 6

“Paper Moon,” currently on view at Kennesaw State University’s Clayton Gallery, showcases artworks consisting of objects replicated to create new utility, to fulfill a fetish, or to cope with trauma. The title references the Depression-era song “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” referring to inexpensive backdrops for film and photography that were transformed into glamorous settings through a camera lens, offering temporary escape to a stricken audience. The works in “Paper Moon” successfully illustrate the myriad of ways in which mimetic production is not merely a replication of real objects but a means for catharsis.

The determination visible in the items confiscated from inmates as photographed by Marc Steinmetz—including a shotgun constructed of bedposts and a hash pipe made from a horseradish tube—reveals these object as transcending utility; they exist as artifacts of human resourcefulness, underscoring a need for escape. These objects are a powerful contrast to the wooden guns made by folk artist Ferdinand Cooper, whose nonfunctional weapons serve as protective talismans against possible harassment. Cooper’s desire for security is made palpable through these ingenious objects, just as the inmates’ creations reveal their yearnings for escape, whether real or imagined.

Mimesis can also enact a regressive escape. Photographs from Mark Hogancamp’s “Marwencol” series depict figurines reenacting biographical events from the artist’s life in elaborate dioramas. In 2000, five men attacked Hogancamp, leaving him with permanent brain damage. In the version of events set forth in “Marwencol”’s models, a group of women comes to his stand-in’s defense, defeating his attackers and helping Hogancamp attain meaningful, though fictitious, retribution. The restaging of this trauma highlights the complicated therapeutic potential of objects; though Hogancamp achieves the desired ending, the events are still painfully violent in the re-creation. These and other works in “Paper Moon” stress the affective import of mimetic objects, and their ability to expose desires as much as they fulfill them.