Review: "Catch the Baby" by Rosamond Casey at Chroma Projects

Art often gives us a chance to root around in someone else’s heart, but rarely does it challenge us to examine our own.

Rosamond Casey’s interactive game “Catch the Baby” is featured at Chroma Projects through November 26, along with paintings by Lindsay Heider Diamond.

“Catch the Baby,” a two-player game at the center of Rosamond Casey’s installation at Chroma Projects, invites gallery goers to reveal their emotions in ways that are surprising and at times intensely personal. It works like this: Two people sit across from each other with a stack of cards. Each displays a scene created by the artist with crude wooden figures—perhaps a couple sitting on a couch or an adult prying apart two fighting children. Stones are then placed onto each image, their color and number representing the emotions provoked in the players as they imagine a similar scene in their own lives. Casey said the resulting conversations help people “stumble onto storylines they didn’t even know they had in them about the other person.”

A video installation and transcripts on the gallery walls document the results of anonymous players Casey recorded earlier. In one, a testy exchange between an employee and boss over productivity is prompted by a picture of a figure in bed beside another holding a rock up like a book. Another picture helps two siblings realize how much they used to compete for their father’s love. One session prompts a daughter to address her apprehension of eventually leaving home for college.

“Men find this game a little bit frightening, frankly,” said Casey. After parsing the landscape of a new marriage 30 years ago and learning that men, in general, are reluctant to discuss how they feel, she thought the format of a game would give players license to discuss emotions. “The notion came into my head that there has to be a way, a system to lead people into conversations that are difficult,” she said.

A couple years ago Casey revisited the concept, studying similar picture-centered psychiatric exercises from the 1930s and enlisting the help of a UVA psychology professor. The resulting images, featured now at Chroma, are photos of the poseable human figures often used in drawing classes. They are brightly painted and placed in abstract dioramas suggestive of broad real-life situations. The images are thought-provoking in their own right, but the revelatory part of “Catch the Baby” is the creation and articulation of a unique interpersonal narrative.

Down the hall, Casey’s McGuffey Art Center colleague Lindsay Heider Diamond provides an intriguing complement to the show, placing portraits of faces in various emotional states within closable cabinets. Using her mother and friends for models, Diamond excels at projecting the feelings churning behind their expressions. Not only does she have a way of melting intimacy into the fluorescent oil of her portraits, but by placing their earnest gazes, close-cropped, behind thick frames crafted from discarded cabinetry, she makes “Voyeur in the Kitchen” as engaging as it is well-titled. As with Casey’s work, the concept offers a clever way inside the often-fraught relationship humans have with what they feel in a given moment.

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