Amy Toscani's 'Body Doubles' at SooVAC

Butch- Girl by Amy Toscani
Butch- Girl by Amy Toscani

Of the many ways to describe "Body Doubles: Work by Amy Toscani," currently exhibited at Soo Visual Art Center, aesthetically pleasing is not one of them. The kitschy amalgamations of transformed plastic, historical pop-culture artifacts, and other random things are certainly not beautiful, nor are they satisfying in any way.

In fact, there's something revolting about her work. It's quite ugly.

Toscani takes as her materials things that are not meant to be art materials, nor are they meant to be long lasting. For example, Tableau uses an inflatable see-saw propped up on its side by a ladder on top of a plastic streamer-decorated bed. Perhaps when the see-saw was new it was shiny and appealing. Though it's not necessarily soiled, its positioning and oldness make it seem like something one would find hidden away in some basement rather than on display. The scrunched-up streamers seem out of place, as does the balanced ladder, cinder blocks, boxing mitts -- everything about the sculpture, really.

Tableau by Amy Toscani
Tableau by Amy Toscani

The whole thing seems like a bunch of junk tossed together. But that's the whole point, of course. The monument demands attention through its size, bright colors, and curious mix of familiar objects. It evokes memory from childhood, and at the same time offers commentary on things that get used and disposed of so readily.

In Wunderpunkt, Toscani creates a sort of watering can made out of a laundry basket. Its spout looks like it's sucking at an idyllic landscape of mountains and flowers. There's nothing slick about the craftsmanship of the watering can as the plastic has been melted together, and in places taped. The landscape looks like something you might find at a Salvation Army. On the one hand, it looks like something you might buy for a dollar at a garage sale. On the other, it's humorous and insidious. Is the watering can watering the flowers? Or is it sucking the life out of the image? 

Wunderpunkt by Amy Toscani
Wunderpunkt by Amy Toscani

There's a violence to some of Toscani's work. Butch- Girl features a standup flat image of an illustrated girl smiling with her paint can and brush, dressed in overalls, with a hole where her crotch would be. It evokes horror, but like almost all of the pieces, has a double meaning. The title suggests an additional layer of empowerment, with the girl possibly embracing a queer identity.

Then there's Someone Else's Self-Portrait, where a contorted sweater with arms in the wrong places is wrapped around a rock-like thing (maybe a volcano?) with a yarn-made balloon (or possible explosion?) shooting out of it. At the foot of the rock is a two-dimensional hand pointing upward. Again, there is destruction, but on another level the piece indicates a struggle with identity, of not fitting into the body one was given, and of being disconnected.

Someone Else's Self- Portrait by Amy Toscani
Someone Else's Self- Portrait by Amy Toscani

No one ever said art had to be pretty. Amy Toscani's work certainly isn't. It kind of says, "fuck you." And then it says, "look closer." And in that deeper attention to the work, you experience the complexity of ideas and feelings that Toscani adeptly manipulates. 


"Body Doubles: Work by Amy Toscani"
Through May 20
Soo Visual Arts Center
2638 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

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