Jessica Rankin

The Project

Jessica Rankin’s first solo show in New York was titled “The Pale Cast of Thoughts,” and it’s worth considering what this reference might mean. “And thus,” says Hamlet, “the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.” He is berating himself for not doing anything about his father’s murder when his soliloquy is interrupted by his virginal female foil, the dutiful daughter and future suicide. “Soft you now,” he murmurs, “The fair Ophelia. – Nymph, in thy orisons / Be all my sins remembered.” Ophelia is fair, just as thought is pale, and she thinks too much; her prayers and memories make her ill. Activity in Hamlet’s terms is ruddy, resolute, while speech and cogitation are effeminate and wan. In the grip of such sick language, the “name of action” turns awry, gets lost, and only pious, girlish passivity remains to tell of male misdeeds.

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