Gratitude Girl: Love Number at MOTOR
MOTOR, Los Angeles
Written by Stephen van Dyck
“Gratitude Girl: Love Number,” the new solo exhibition by Beth Fiedorek, is an unusual pairing of comics and ceramics, at MOTOR, a mobile artist-run gallery space. MOTOR is a hitchable trailer with a wall that extends out and up, creating shade and revealing a gallery inside, lined in pegboard. MOTOR changes locations with each exhibit or event, engaging with a site’s communities and history, potentially bringing a white wall art space to underrepresented areas and farther reaches of sprawling LA typically neglected by the art scene. From afar, driving up, I could see MOTOR and a crowd of people gathered around it, at dusk in a dark lot, the gallery illuminated, Fiedorek’s work a glowing centerpiece. I’m enjoying the somewhat rare experience of togetherness in a parking lot to see art, which you’d think would happen more often in Los Angeles.
Comic strips span the gallery, introducing kneepad-clad superhero Gratitude Girl and her strange relationship with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, an allegory for early 21st-Century life. Both aspirational and gag-worthy, Gratitude Girl is unlike most superheroes, more riot grrrl zine than Marvel. Neither character in the comic is fully relatable, and yet that allows for a deeper possible connection to the questions Fiedorek raises. Gratitude Girl dances with, eats with, fucks Zuck. It’s funny, gross, endearing even, to see Zuckerberg this way. He’s that guy we’ve all dated who seems great on paper but just doesn’t quite get it. Spending hours daily on his platforms, we’re all in a bad relationship with him. MZ’s response to her dumping him, taken from an actual speech, about service, quality, and being objective, elicits my out-loud laugh. In a loud script GG explains what he doesn’t get: “it’s the beauty in how everything affects everyone,” paired with nature images: mushrooms having shared roots, the symbiosis of fish and coral, a team of ants–not drawn to be romanticized, their realistic depiction reminding me of their sensuality. Fiedorek has us considering the limits of abstract concepts and easy fixes, pointing attention to our very real, complicated isolation, the gallery spectator’s own needs for care and connection coming into view.
In conversation with the comics are five ceramic works. Two heart boxes hang precariously at eye level, an anatomically accurate red, yellow, and blood-brown with aortic valves, gorgeously rendered, like a living heart has been literally pushed into a crate container shape. Is this what I’m doing to my needs and natural impulses when I scroll pop psychology memes on Meta-owned Instagram telling me how to love myself or be thankful? Two ceramic pieces each with three giant ants, and actual lock innards affixed to them, scale the walls, calling to my mind Louise Bourgeois’ famous giant spiders. A ceramic tree, “Touching Loss,” stands lonely with embedded locks, the only figure in the gallery besides me, bringing my body into the conversation. Trees are always connected–they both create and are their own ecosystems–but this one’s solitary and dead-looking.
While the ambiguity and indeterminacy of the ceramics may contrast with the clear narrative of the comic book, I start pondering their shared roots in the collective and as less intellectualized practices. These massive heart containers could not be hung up alone. They’re made of clay–groundedness is central to a gratitude practice. Unlike code or monetized self-care aphorisms, clay behaves unpredictably, resists being controlled. And similarly, MOTOR, the gallery, is open and porous, a perfectly Los Angeles way to have art not shut behind doors that only some can enter. And isn’t this a reason for both art and art spaces? To “connect with friends and the world around you” (Facebook.com), something my Insta Stories will never quite do.