Critical Distance

HOT: Tanya Mars
May 14 – May 16, 1998

a response to the exhibition by Sheila Spence

Dressed in a floor-length black skirt and a lace vest, the artist, at a distance, appears formal and elegant. A closer look reveals a once conventionally beautiful woman with a full beard. Her fragile bones are on the outside. In the distance a voice repeats “Do you love me?”.

Mars spends three days carefully setting and placing mousetraps on the floor with cinnamon hearts for bait. Like in a relationship, any unforeseen occurrence can set off a single trap causing a chain reaction. Patiently and lovingly, she repairs the damage. While she is dealing with the task at hand little attention is paid to her emotions. The pile of mousetraps, waiting to be set and arranged, is overwhelming. The pieces on the floor are obsessive and compelling.

Being a middle-aged woman, I find Mars’ piece particularly poignant. Confidence and lack of confidence become blurred, and impetuousness is replaced by hope and faith. Strengths are often found in vulnerabilities. Giving the necessary time becomes a profoundly generous gift.

HOT is a multi-media/process/performance work that plays with the irony of being 50, a magical number of celebration signifying accomplishment, joy, success…unless you are a woman, for whom 50 signifies decline, invisibility, something less than valuable. Performed in an installation/environment constructed over a period of three days, Hot evokes a soothing/ominous atmosphere. Hot is about love, aging and companionship, with a resolution that evokes hopeful sadness.

-Tanya Mars, excerpt from an artist’s statement