In conversation with artists Barb Choit & Erica Baum at Rawson Projects, I tell them about how I have just read former Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoroso’s book #GIRLBOSS.
Something about Choit’s Polaroid portraits of shoes reminds me of a tip Amoroso shares about developing her signature style when she started out as an Ebay shop which was simply about how key the background was for thumbnail images and making sales.
After telling her this, Choit admits that the portraits inspired by Warhol’s Polaroid studies for his illustrations for a 1980’s Halston campaign are the images she uses to post on the Instagram for her own online retail shop Division of Vintage.
She confesses that items always sell with a white background.
With this admission, the consistency of backdrop in her images becomes glaring.
This installation is the last of the “A Process Series” of shows that gallery director/curator Jessamyn Fiore instigated this spring, asking four artists to use the space to articulate their sources of inspiration as a way to see these artists take risks she had never seen them take before.
Choit, an artist that has shown with Rawson in the past, felt excited to work with a space that she felt supported by and decided to take this an extra step further by asking friend and former collaborator Erica Baum to present her own photo series of handbags from the 90’s in relation to her shoe images.
Fiore admits that the intention for this series was also a way to see how many different ways a small space could be transformed and this iteration was exciting as a way to explore the intricacies of collaboration.
The two have been in dialogue for over ten years beginning when Barb curated Erica in an online show for the gallery she was working at. They both feel what connects their work for this show is an interest in exploring femininity & fashion without having to buy into it.
Choit says how she feels purses and shoes specifically are connected are in their fetishization. Or to be specific, the certain types that both she and Erica are attracted to which are less about usefulness making them more object than necessity.
Baum confesses that she enjoys her purses but feels that she is most attracted to the “dumpiness” which gives them a sort of abject quality.
Both artists seem to share the inherent ‘digging’ gene that all thrifting vintage types own that carries into their individual practice. It shows in Erica Baum’s work with her foundation in anthropology and investigative strategy to reveal the traces of use and popular culture while Barb Choit speaks about being an obsessive collector in both art and life.
As a viewer, the most interesting thing is how the juxtaposition of images represent the teetering line of accessibility these objects invoke. Both artists make the viewer question that they know what they are looking at, forcing them to see them more as structural object without any recognizable mechanization.
If there is any mechanism that is being addressed, it is the line between production and marketplace that Warhol obsessively traversed and what Barb Choit and Erica Baum’s images do is contemporize the conversation towards how we exist in a different economy that juggles multiple modes of supply and demand on several platforms simultaneously.