Category: Current

Freaks, Geeks, and Strange Girls

Curated by Peter Gynd

November 15, 2019 – January 17, 2020

Opening Reception: Friday, November 15, 6–9pm

Freaks, Geeks, and Strange Girls is a solo exhibition of new works by Jody MacDonald. A merger of fact, fiction, and art history, MacDonald’s sculptural dioramas explore a set of characters on the fringe. The work takes its influence—along with the exhibition’s title—from a book of the same name published in 1996 showcasing an anthology of banners, backdrops and advertisements created for 19th and early 20th century American sideshows. These banners serve as a jumping off point for MacDonald to muse on her own imaginative absurdities and bring a set of fictional characters and circumstances into play.

MacDonald’s sculptures tell a story the viewer seemingly enters into halfway through. Each diorama is intensely crafted and layered with minutely detailed elements that—when read collectively—offer a deeper understanding of each character’s fundamental traits and desires. The works, with titles like Dogfaced Boy, The Clown, or The Hermaphroditic Goat, pull reference from actual advertised sideshow acts and expand upon each narrative, inserting situations of MacDonald’s creation.

Each piece is layered with details thoughtfully inserted by MacDonald to take the viewer down the rabbit hole with her. They demand attention—and reward it—with details such as the miniature magazines in Dogfaced Boy, complete with headlines and readable text, including a purpose-written article by the artist. Or the IKEA-like instructions for fictional products such as “SKÄRA” or “KAPA” (translating to “cut and “sever” in english) found in the piece Conjoined Twins.

The artworks meld sideshow influence with contemporary culture and art history; backdropped by scenes of recognizable artworks such as Édouard Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère, David Hockney’s Portrait of Nick Wilder or, in the work Monkey Grrl—a half-monkey half-girl boxer staged for the prize fight—MacDonald’s own homage to the Guerilla Girls and the fight of women artists to gain their proper recognition in Art’s main ring; the title also a nod to the punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl of the 1990s.

MacDonald’s sculptures become a performative set of complex identities that can be read as a reflection of our own culture. They are mirrors—symbolic reflections to a claim of “realness”; a fun house distortion of reality, with each characters’ likeness a slightly distorted—but recognizable—photo-transfer image of the artists’ own face.


Freaks, Geeks, and Strange Girls will be Jody MacDonald’s first solo exhibition in New York.


Jody MacDonald is an artist whose art practice is an ongoing exploration of identity, hierarchies, and stereotypes characterized by dark humor and an obsessive attention to detail. Her fastidiously crafted work has been exhibited in galleries and artist-run centers across Canada and the US, with solo shows at Galerie Connexion, Fredericton, NB; Acadia University Gallery, Wolfville, NS; Latitute 53 Contemporary Visual Culture, Edmonton, AB; Campbell River Art Gallery, Campbell River, BC; and Fifth Parallel Gallery, Regina, SK. Her mixed media drawings, paintings and sculptures are held in numerous private collections throughout Ontario, British Columbia, and New York. MacDonald is a graduate of the Emily Carr University of Art + Design and is a recipient of a 2019 New Work Grant from the Queens Council on the Arts. She is currently based in LIC, Queens, NY.

Peter Gynd is a fifth generation artist, independent curator, and the director at Lesley Heller Gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Notable exhibitions curated by Gynd include a permanent exhibition at the Foundation Center, NY; an acclaimed two-person presentation at SPRING/BREAK Art Show (2015); and group exhibitions at Present Company, NY; NARS Foundation, NY; the Northside Festival, NY; Lesley Heller Workspace, NY; and at the Dynamo Arts Association, Vancouver Canada. Gynd’s exhibitions have been featured in Hyperallergic, The Carnegie Reporter, Blouin Artinfo, and Gothamist. Peter Gynd has been a guest critic at Residencies Unlimited, Kunstraum, ChaNorth Artist Residency; a consultant at NYFA’s Doctors Hours; guest lecture at Pratt Institute; and guest juror at 440 Gallery, Equity Gallery, Sweet Lorraine Gallery, and the second edition of Art Fair 14C (2020).


The works in this exhibit are made possible, in part, by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.





On the Inside: Dogfaced Boy video here
On the Inside: The Hermaphroditic Goat video here
On the Inside: The Red Thread video here.

Opening night video here

To look at the sea is to become what one is.

September 20 – November 8, 2019

Opening Reception: September 20th 6-9 pm

Manal Abu-Shaheen & Oscar René Cornejo

Curated by Laura August


Funneled by the persistence
of waves, the sea recoils
just to the line of the horizon

The heart establishes its equations
while history rules itself
in the next room

–Etel Adnan, from “The Sky that Isn’t”


Pairing photographs by Manal Abu-Shaheen and sculptures by Oscar René Cornejo, To look at the sea is to become what one is considers ways of understanding place, somewhere between vision and memory, emotion and history, self-making and post-war forgetting. Together, Abu-Shaheen and Cornejo consider how we describe places that are impossible to return to–at least in the ways we remember them–despite their central importance in our emotional and intellectual lives. For both Abu-Shaheen and Cornejo, landscape and its materiality become a way of understanding what it means to be a post-war subject, or to come from a family fleeing conflict: both artists’ practices consider what we know about a place, a landscape, and its fluidity over time. Titled in homage to poet Etel Adnan, the exhibition finds the ghosts of the past in our intimate connections to the landscapes around us. These phantoms wander sites of ruin and reconstruction, touching the edges of how we understand ourselves, far from home and up against the constant movement of histories.

Cornejo’s sculptures, made at the scale of the human heart, continue his longstanding interest in the materials of construction as metaphors for displacement and resilience. He works with paired objects made of cotton, fresco, wood, handmade paper, and woodblock prints. Many of the objects hold plants and flowers; they are made at the scale of the things we can carry with us in crisis, and they enact the enigmatic healing force of portable, personal altars. Abu-Shaheen’s photographs follow the lives of her brother and his children at their farm in rural Pennsylvania. As structures crumble and are rebuilt, the children make worlds for themselves in costumes, collections of objects, and outdoor play. In their intimacy over a span of many years, the photographs allow the brave embrace of one American dream to abut the insistent difficulty of building a life far from home. Seen together, the works connect in their deep relationships to color and material, to scale and the quotidian. But they also remind us of the journeys so many of our elders have taken, so many of our beloveds still take. To be “in the heart of the heart of another country,” as Adnan writes, is to understand the depths of loss, to experience linguistic and cultural separations impossible to describe, and yet, still, to stitch together a life of both or many places. To look at the sea is to study one’s vulnerability, to embrace endless movement, to feel distance, and yet, still, to find the center of the self, even in the heart of constant change.

Manal Abu-Shaheen (b. 1982, Beirut) is a Lebanese-American photographer currently living and working in Queens, NY. Her recent solo exhibitions include 2d Skin, Soloway, Brooklyn, NY (2019), Theater of Dreams, Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University, NJ (2018) and Beta World City, LORD LUDD, Philadelphia, PA (2017). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY Old Westbury, NY (2019); The Society of Korean Photography, Seoul, Korea (2017); Queens Museum, NY (2016); and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY (2015). She is a recipient of the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship (2019), NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship (2019), Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer’s Fellowship (2017), LMCC Workspace Residency (2016), A.I.R Gallery Fellowship (2016), and AIM Residency at the Bronx Museum (2015). Abu-Shaheen holds a B.A from Sarah Lawrence College and M.F.A in Photography from Yale School of Art. She teaches at The City College of New York.

Oscar René Cornejo (b. 1982, Houston, TX) earned an MFA from Yale School of Art (2011), a BFA from the Cooper Union (2005), and was a recipient of the J. William Fulbright Scholarship for research in El Salvador. In 2004, he cofounded the Latin American Community Art Project (LA CAPacidad), where for seven years he directed summer artist residencies to promote intercultural awareness through community art education. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions, including White Flag, at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (2017), Collective Solid, Deborah Colton Gallery, Houston, TX (2015); and Parliament of Owls, Diverseworks, Houston, TX (2015). Cornejo has completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where he has been a member of the staff since 2015, and at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in 2016.

About the curator:
Laura August, PhD makes texts and exhibitions, often around shared geographic and metaphorical landscapes. Since 2016, she has been working on mud, stones, and the sounds of storms; she is currently at work on a book-length essay about corn, mud, and historical violence in the middle of the Americas. Her projects are collaborations with artists, poets, activists, loved ones, and those we have lost. In 2017, she received The Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her writing in Central America. She served as critic-in-residence at the Core Program at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from 2016-2018, and she has written for numerous international journals, magazines, exhibition catalogs, and artist monographs. Her curatorial projects have appeared at artist-run spaces, galleries, museums, public sites, and universities in the U.S. and Central America. She is founding director of Yvonne, a residential project space in Guatemala City, where she divides her time with Houston.

Oscar Cornejo Catalog