Welcome to the Eggery by Jocelyn Beyak. Eggery is a poignant take on the traditional Ukrainian Easter egg called pysanky. Instead of decorating the eggs with wax and dyes, Jocelyn has annointed a series of hollow duck eggs with what appears to be family portraits. The images are of old fashioned ladies and gentlemen in the bridal costumes and elegant finery of long long ago. Rather than displaying the eggs whole and in the gallery, Ms. Beyak chose to first break the eggs and then to record the result on a flat bed scanner. The final images, of which there are probably 20 or so, have been framed in very simple black and hung side by side on the gallery walls.
Eggery as a title is an interesting comment on the past traditions involving work and family and lifestyle, because as a word eggery suggests a factory like production. It conjures the old manner of shared labour where members of a community or a large family would gather together to create and celebrate everything from egg dyeing to pyrogy making. Also there is the baby making that went on amongst married men and women (and unmarried men and women) before the age of birth control, the egg of course being a very ancient and powerful symbol of fertility. And then there is the lifestyle itself which would most certainly include the manufacture of homegrown food, like duck and chicken eggs.
Eggery speaks of an organic, physical and human factory. Of lives spent creating families and children and art and food. Of living with and of struggling with nature, not so much for domination but for survival. Of course back in those days, before science found better ways to live and before the advent of Safeway and The Gap, before even giclee prints, men and women had everything to work for and to strive towards creating for themselves and their people. Looking back, one cannot help but think of the work, but also of the sense of purpose and how that must have infused those long ago ladies and gentlemen with an awesome sense of optimism and promise.
Do we, the post baby boomer generations, have that same sense of purpose and optimism? In general our struggle is not physical or organic. In this, the digital age, it rarely seems human. The pre boomer generations are all dying off now. My own grandfather, aged 97, died just two years ago. Our connection to that long ago way of living is disappearing. How can we continue to be human when being human has changed so drastically since our grandparents and great grandparents worked the earth and themselves? How do we continue? Do we fully embrace our technological evolution or do we reinvent the old ways of living through environmental activism and the slow food movement and etsy?
Jocelyn Beyak's Eggery project is conceptually vital to our future. She has delicately reworked an ancient and beautiful form of folk art and called into question some very serious modern concerns, all without forsaking that old promise.
A broken egg is still an egg.
Eggery is showing at Xchanges' new gallery space at 2333 Government St., suite 6E, until April 25th.