Melissa Swanson’s BFA show, “Atychiphobia,” opened today. The show featured prints, animation, and installation pieces composed of dried rose petals.
The prints hanging on the wall were “reduction prints” — which also go by the name “suicide prints,” if the printmaker is in a black humor mood. The printing block is gouged for the first color, then gouged away further for the second color, and so on, until eventually getting whittled down for the final pass. It’s a bit of a tightrope process, since there’s no going back. The block has to get killed for you to reach the end of the print.
For Melissa, the technique is tied to the show’s title, which means “fear of failure.” As Melissa put it, “Atychiphobia” isn’t your everyday run-of-the-mill fear of failure — the kind of fear everyone has, “the same way everyone has a fear of falling out of an airplane” — but rather, it’s a paralyzing fear. A fear so pronounced, it negates the ability to even try. Because if you try, there’s that chance you’ll fail, and then it will be confirmed: you really weren’t good enough. It’s better to not even put that on the table.
Three sheets of rose petals had been sewn together and printed on; at the opposite end of the gallery there was an animation, composed of several printed rose petals that had been scanned before they were discarded for the floor. The same image was printed on several petals, and the animation ran through the printed petals frame by frame: the repeated image remained fairly stable, while the rose petal forms themselves flickered out around them, their veined textures leaving faint impressions on the eyeball as they ran headlong through the projector. The printed imagery revolved around forms of birds and cages. Their silhouettes pulsed with a kind of brittle insistence.