2019 New Work Grantee, MATERIAL GIRLS, Present: My Shell Makes Itself

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MATERIAL GIRLS: My Shell Makes Itself
November 8 - December 15, 2019
5-50 Gallery 5-50 51st Avenue Long Island City, NY 11101
Opening Reception: Friday, November 8th, 2019, 7-10pm


Inspired by the oyster reefs that once surrounded and protected New York City, MATERIAL GIRLS presents My Shell Makes Itself, a group show & installation that takes the seashell as its central metaphor. Simultaneously soft and strong, an individual shell-bound animal builds, alters, and repairs its own source of shelter and protection. Through the formation of this boundary, the life experience and external conditions of the organism are inscribed into the resulting shape and coloring of its shell. Reciprocally, the shell’s environment is profoundly impacted by its presence (or absence).

“So I can say that my shell made itself, without my taking any special pains to have it come out one way rather than another, but this doesn’t mean that I was absent-minded during that time; I applied myself, instead, to the act of secreting...” Italo Calvino, The Spiral

My Shell Makes Itself is a collaboration between nine artists: Cameron Cameron, Hilliary Gabryel, Basia Goszczynska, Bahareh Khoshooee, Devra Freelander, Claire Lachow, Gracelee Lawrence, Emily Lee, and Rachael Starbuck. The artists have each contributed handwoven nets tied across distances, which when connected, reconfigure the interior and loosen the rigidity of the gallery. Individual works by each artist are interwoven, sat behind, presented and entangled in the net installation. Our shell is a porous form. A vessel that is also permeable, the net is simultaneously holding and letting go. This exhibition features a spectrum of porousness— expressed in architectural interventions, objects, and collective conversation— together funneling, filtering, flowing, and supporting. Conceived as a means to tie our practices together across the country, our shell, much like an animal’s shell, is a byproduct of labor. A physical record of a repeated gesture, its knots and materials collect muscle memory and build community. We reconsider solid circumstances as porous openings, affording agency in the face of distance and the uncompromising. Both literal and metaphorical perspectives combine to reimagine material realities.

MATERIAL GIRLS is a non-hierarchical collective of artists dedicated to building community, fostering collaboration, and opening up space through facilitating exhibitions, educational programming, and tool-sharing initiatives. My Shell Makes Itself is made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. View more at
materialgirls.work