“When I came in here I picked up that one,” says a young man, pointing to a flesh-colored latex object Chicago artist Jeanne Dunning has placed on the floor during a gallery talk for her current exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Over a dozen of the ambiguous plastic shapes–they squeak when you squeeze them–are strewn about the room. At first glance they look like gourds, green peppers, pears, and bananas; but they also resemble human organs. A video monitor plays The Squeaky Toy Tape, which documents a dog playing with the objects. Museum guards permit visitors to do the same. Dunning says she relishes the dog’s unconscious play juxtaposed with the “underlying perversity” of his chasing, biting, and tossing around objects that look like human body parts.
The exhibit also includes The Third Breast, a realistic-looking color photo of a reclining female nude with an extra breast emerging from her pubic area. Dunning tells the crowd, “There are so many ways in which the reality of our bodies is really foreign to us.”
A woman asks Dunning about the three-breasted woman’s “deformity” and wonders if it was awkward to photograph. A dumbfounded Dunning explains that it wasn’t a real breast between the woman’s legs. “I’m very glad to hear that,” says the concerned questioner. “It kind of hurt me that you’d do that.”
This is not the first time Dunning has encountered incomprehension, but she doesn’t see a need to spell things out. “It’s kind of sad that people are so intimidated by modern art and feel they have to have it explained to them,” she says.
The exhibit Jeanne Dunning, organized by Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum, is at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 237 E. Ontario, through December 31. The MCA is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 to 5 and Sundays noon to 5. Admission is $5 (“suggested donation”), $2.50 for students and seniors. Tuesdays are free. Call 280-5161 for information.