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A poet and a mother

'Hatch': Poems/Installation by Jenny Montgomery

“Carriage” by Jenny Montgomery. Photo credit: Alec Clayton

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Salon Refu owner Susan Christian describes the gallery's current show, "Hatch", as an experiment in literary installation. "It began as a chapbook of poems exploring a devastating birth experience and the eventual joys of parenting an uncommonly determined (and exceptionally funny) child. Images from the poems are ‘built out' into the gallery space, made from materials which reach back to touch prehistoric ritual traditions surrounding death and the afterlife, as well as incorporating toys from our own culture." 

The artist's seven-year-old son, Heath, was born with severe cerebral palsy.

Words from Montgomery's poems about her son are mixed with words out of Heath's mouth and things others have said about and to him, along with many artifacts from and about his young life. In some cases, the words make up titles for the artifacts presented as sculptures and wall reliefs. The pieces are not put together in a coherent or easily understood manner, but rather in a kind of hodge-podge that forces the viewer to puzzle out the meanings.  

It is not an easy installation to suss out, but it is an installation that can be emotionally moving and intellectually stimulating.

Symbols of birth and death abound, often in the form of eggs or of swaddling or bandaging. There is a giant inflatable egg swaddled in gauze, and there is a little toy horse and rider bandaged head-to-toe like a mummy, with medical reports typed out in tiny letters and adhered to the bandages.

Examples of random words and items:

The child's grandfather's childhood coat combined with shredded lab reports and "a strange medal."

Printed large on the wall: "Hug Goofy," "Know your carnivores," and "Is that the wrong word?"  

A small bunny doll sits in a bed of pills in a Tibetan singing bowl. A label explains that the pills are anti-cholinergic medicines.  The title card includes a warning (in all-caps): "For God's sake do not eat, very dangerous and has no enjoyable side effects."

A baby carriage filled with large stones and a rope extending to and visually through the ceiling represents life, death and the umbilical cord.  

Another label explains that viewers are invited to play with an installation of toys and medical supplies titled "What is so atrocious it gives rise to laughter?"

Montgomery is a poet and a mother, not a visual artist, but this installation displays outstanding aesthetic sensibilities.

"HATCH", Thursday-Sunday 2-6 p.m., and by appointment, through May 29, Salon Refu, 114 N. Capitol Way, Olympia,

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