ADDS DONNA is pleased to present “Into The World There Came a Soul Called Ida,” a group exhibition featuring the work of Taylor Augustine, Shelby Donnelly, Rachel Niffenegger, Katie Rauth, and Caleb Yono.
“Into The World There Came a Soul Called Ida” functions as a humble homage to Ivan Albright’s 1930 masterpiece by the same name. A beloved painting among Art Institute students, faculty, and other frequent visitors, its influence is palpable through generations of artists with connections to Chicago. This modest exhibition does not attempt to trace its impact in any systematic way, though that would be fascinating, but rather wishes to pay tribute to the painting’s strange, decrepit majesty with a small selection of works that share certain sensibilities.
In the original painting, Ida sits alone at a dressing table, gazing dolefully into a hand mirror while powdering her chest. Various objects are scattered atop the dresser and across the floor with which we might construct a narrative; a vase of flowers, a cigarette, a burnt match stick, a dollar bill, two pennies, two glass jars, a comb, a torn-up letter, a handkerchief, and my favorite—a peanut shell. The original model, Ida Rogers, was just 19 years old at the time of the painting. Over the three years it took Albright to complete the work, he aged her beyond recognition, transforming the attractive young woman into an aging beauty with bulging veins, wrinkles, and corps-like skin.
The artworks included in this exhibition are riffs on the painting’s key themes—melancholy, the futile pursuit of youth and beauty, decay, and the passage of time. Drawing from the 16th-century Dutch vanitas genre, Katie Rauth’s sculpture uses symbols of excess and pleasure to question the morality placed on consumption. The molded glass bowls slump dramatically as if from the weight of indulgence, but inside, most of the bowls are empty but for a mirror-like skim of burnt sugar. Taylor Augustine’s floral arrangement and accompanying painting represent rituals of commemoration—both joyful and sad. While the fresh bouquet will inevitably wither and dry during the course of the exhibition, the painting promises to hold its sentiment in perpetuity, leading viewers to consider relationships between truth and representation, between permanence and the ephemeral. Caleb Yono’s “Interdimensional femmes” drawing series pulse with frantic energy and hypnotic power. Their transformative symbolism and references to the divine feminine would serve as a foil to Albright’s morbid declarations, yet their frenetic mark-making belies a feverish obsession with beauty and incidental frailty. Shelby Donnelly designs clothing and accessories befitting any romantic soul, most especially souls called Ida. Her use of vintage fabrics, hand-stitched embroidery, and patch-work collage play off the tattered textures present in the depression-era painting. In a small but fiendish drawing by Rachel Niffenegger, a pair of lidless, acid-green eyeballs fix your gaze through a swirling psychedelic surface resembling melting flesh. The ghoulish portrait comes perhaps the closest to the “master of macabre’s” hyperbolic intensity.
Several of these artists have spent significant time looking and thinking about this painting, though none have aimed to emulate Albright’s style directly. Like any good tribute album, they honor the original while updating and extending its reach. Motifs of vanity and impermanence, are just as potent if not more so in a culture obsessed with self-image. As we enter the new year full of schemes for self-improvement and rebranding, let us look deep into the mirror, powder our chest, and consider our options.
Taylor Augustine received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in the fall of 2021. Her work expands from a deep affinity with decorative arts through practices in drawing, painting and floristry. Her recent work considers the sensation of layering, through a multiplicity of images by creating potentiality of loose narrative structure and improvisation that complicates the context of flowers. She illustrates language and the natural world in translations of what it desires and where it arrives. Previous group exhibitions include “green belt,” at Jargon Projects, Chicago; “every instance of stasis,” at SAIC Galleries; “Inflorescence, Heaven Gallery, Chicago, IL.
Shelby Donnelly is an interdisciplinary visual artist, educator, and the founder of Wear to Wall, a clothing brand that combines her interest in textiles and materials into one-of-a kind and limited edition art to wear. Donnelly has exhibited both internationally and nationally at International House Philadelphia’s Ibrahim Theater, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, The Barnes Foundation, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Haus der Kunst Museum. Donnelly was the 2014 recipient of the Independence Foundation Artist Fellowship and traveled to Morocco to co-curate an exhibition at TALIM. Donnelly attended artist residencies at the Cité de Internationale in Paris, France, Millay Artist Colony in New York, Soaring Gardens, and Second State Press in Pennsylvania. Donnelly holds a B.F.A in Printmaking and Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis (2002) and a M.F.A in Material Studies from Tyler School of Art, Temple University (2008). She lives and works in Philadelphia, PA.
Rachel Niffenegger’s drawings are interior psychological portraits pulled from an evolving archive of visions conjured in concert with generative technologies. Her work has been included in museum shows at the Museum for Modern Art in Arnhem, the Netherlands; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and in gallery shows in New York, Berlin, Chicago, Liverpool, Denver, and Milwaukee, among others. Niffenegger, born in Evanston in 1985, received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She is represented by Western Exhibitions in Chicago and lives and works in Chicago.
Katie Rauth is a fat, queer multidisciplinary artist working between sculpture, performance and community organizing. Through her practice, she is involved in supporting dialogue within radical fat liberationist politics, drawing from Dutch Protestant vanitas imagery and personal experiences navigating classed systems of etiquette to consider the morality placed on consumption and the complicated ethics of pleasure and indulgence. Rauth’s work has been exhibited locally and nationally in exhibitions at Spillway Collective (PHL), Vox Populi (PHL), David Salkin Creative (CHI), and SPRING/BREAK (NYC) among others. They recently acquired an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently serve as the Artistic Director of Comfort Station in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
Caleb Yono works with representations of figures caught in moments of transformation and transmutation. Caleb’s works on paper, performances, photographs, videos, and objects; hope to understand and process the dissonance and harmony of the feminine, femme, and hysteric. They have a MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in painting and drawing (2015). Their work has been featured in numerous galleries and institutions including Roots and Culture , Andrew Rafecz, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Monya Rowe. Caleb has worked extensively with s+s project in CDMX performing and exhibiting at the Centro Cultural del México Contemporáneo and art space. they were the 2016 Acre residency performance scholar. Caleb Lives and works in Chicago.