Press Release: https://mothergallery.art/significant-otherness
Emilie Louise Gossiaux’s solo exhibition Significant Otherness consists of ceramic sculptures and pen-and-crayon drawings that consider interspecies bonds to transcend conventional hierarchies between humans and nonhuman species. Mirroring the exhibition title, the phrase “significant otherness” originates from feminist scholar and theorist Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness in which the writer deftly explores relational encounters between humans and nonhuman species bonded in their significant otherness, or a complex recognition of difference. Haraway also riffs on the popular phrase “significant other” to claim kinship across species, particularly between humans and dogs, just as Gossiaux does within her own artistic practice. Centering her own interspecies relationships throughout the exhibition, Gossiaux describes her nine-year relationship with her golden Labrador retriever and guide dog, London, as one that is simultaneously practical, spousal, maternal and emotional. In a new artistic exploration, Gossiaux also finds solace in connecting with an unlikely species—the alligator.
Gossiaux presents new earthenware ceramic pieces as an homage to London’s life. She recreates objects of personal significance associated with London’s everyday work routine, playtime, and pleasure, such as rubber chew toys of various shapes, her collar and name tag, harness, and leash. Dog collars, harnesses, and leashes serve as bodily extensions that mutually and physically connect dog to human and human to dog. In contrast to the objects associated with the working aspects of London’s life as a guide dog, the artist also recreates a favorite bulbous chew toy, whose interior is often stuffed with thick globs of peanut butter as a treat to lick, in turn, giving the object a sensual dimension. In this collection of nostalgic memorabilia, Gossiaux honors seemingly quotidian objects that nurture and shape shared intimacies between dogs and humans.
Gossiaux also debuts three extraordinary ceramic human-animal hybrid figures, which each occupy distinct postures and physical characteristics. In her titles for Dreaming Doggirl, Doggirl, and Alligatorgirl, she creates compound words to further hybridize the language she uses to describe her figures. Native to the three million acres of wetlands in and around New Orleans, where Gossiaux is also from, the alligator becomes her alter ego, a feminist embodiment to express feelings of anger or frustration. In the sculpture Alligatorgirl, the creature’s jaws are wide open, revealing a human’s expressionless face surrounded by sharp jagged teeth, just before she devours the body whole. In Alligatorgirl Riot, Gossiaux draws yellow-eyed reptilian creatures with human limbs and alligator bodies swimming together, with the exception of one of them vigorously climbing out of the water and crawling into a human’s bed. With the known, persistent threat of climate change to the alligator’s wetland habitat as a result of the irresponsible ways we humans have treated our environment, Gossiaux’s Alligatorgirl works subtly allude to a future where the animals might turn even more aggressive, especially when feeling threatened.
In addition to her work exploring interspecies relationships, Gossiaux depicts other forms of mutual coexistence in her drawings, which she creates either from memory or through touch, as with her sculptures. In Moon and Sun, Gossiaux draws a crescent moon and sun, positioned side by side, both taking up equal space in the sky. We often think of the sky as dominated by either the sun or moon depending on the time of day; however, their coexistence is a common occurrence. This drawing serves as a compelling connection to Gossiaux’s other bodies of work that propose alternative ways we as humans can exist with and among other beings, together in our significant otherness.
—Alessandra Gómez, April 2022