Review of Reflection Refraction Reaction


After recent events in Texas, this reviewer has been nervous about what the future holds for women in this country, not to mention minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals. Morlan Gallery’s current exhibition Reflection Refraction Reaction is a celebration of womanhood, femininity, and queerness that couldn’t come at a better time. 

Visitors to Morlan are greeted by a pink wall with white text that introduces the artists
(Courtney Kessel, Cayla Skillin-Brauchle, and Danielle Wyckoff) and the vision for the exhibit: “…the artists offer exhibition participants moments of consideration and conversation, moments of directional shifts, and moments mutual action to create something new: reflection, refraction, reaction.” In addition to the forward facing wall, two pink walls flank the double glass doors, mimicking certain aspects of female anatomy that suggest the viewer is entering a womb. Once inside, the viewer is invited to sit and peruse a wall of zines that are housed in the “Reproductive Media Zine Library” The space also features fragmented pieces of clothing bearing phrases such as, “If you like it, then its [sic] stylish.” The entire piece is Reproductive Media’s Mobile Zine Library by Danielle C. Wyckhoff and Cayla Skillin-Brauchle.

Featured throughout the gallery are several copper wire mobiles, whose skeletal forms are eerie, yet nostalgic for a bygone childhood. I Put a Spell on You (Fertility) by Courtney Kessel features dried fruit, sage bones, citrine, and a glittery condom, because who doesn’t need a little sparkle in their love life? Moving around the corner, the viewer encounters a collaborative performance short film by Courtney Kessel, Natailie Wetzel, Josephine Wyckoff-Lareau, and Danielle C. Wyckoff. The piece is composed of layered videos of the artists and their children walking across a yard. The scene is a relatively normal one. There is a pickup truck and a swing set in the background, but the double imaging of the film creates something less than a comforting vision of suburban family life. Not to mention the pregnant belly and breast mold one of the artists holds against her body. This reviewer always enjoys Morlan’s films, and Le Streghe (the witches) was no exception. 

My favorite piece is an installation by Courtney Kessel entitled Enchante. It is centered in the back of the gallery, and features a fascinating conglomeration of materials, each of which gives the piece texture and reflection (literally, there are rainbows and stencils of light on the wall). The sculpture emanates these shards and slices of intangibility from reflective objects, including a disco ball, aluminum foil, and a mirror. The impermanence of the reflections ties the piece together, and by extension, the exhibit as a whole. 

The other notable installation takes on the appearance of a ghostly grotto, called Mirror Pools. It is by far the most interactive piece in the gallery, as the viewer can essentially become part of the art. Standing outside or inside provides a different perspective on belonging and connection. The delicate wires and draping of pink is a fitting exit from the womb of Reflection Refraction Reaction, sending visitors out with enough mysticism and femininity to last until someone else hangs a glittery condom from a wire.