Schmear comes from Yiddish and means a spreadable, cheesy topping—like cream cheese or whitefish mousse, or anything else you might request wiped across the surface of a half-bagel. A flick of the clerk’s wrist along the brown or tan circle, often without regard for the puckering hole in the center. A schmear could also refer to an expansive group of things. It’s what you might say when looking over the menu at a quintessentially excessive American chain restaurant, eyes darting over the “bottomless pasta bowls” section—you look up, smile to your waitress, and proclaim “I’ll take the whole schmear!”
These all-comprising, endlessly filled, and certifiably indigestible approaches to the menus of restaurants like Olive Garden are one amongst “a whole schmear” of references Katya Tepper untangles in her forthcoming solo exhibition at Species, “Wall Bowl Constellations”. A young female artist working through and in conversation with her own chronic digestive and hormonal illness, Tepper is acutely aware of the implications of what is schmeared, slathered, and stuffed into the contents of a bowl. Here, eating is one of many metaphors for digesting the world and coming out changed. Decoration, written language, landscape, and architecture are all processed through her bodily filter. In an immersive installation of abstract murals with wall-hung ceramic sculptures, paint weaves together disparate parts into a patchworked whole. The murals, with their constellations of bowl sculptures, chart the material, aesthetic, and psychosexual dimensions of internalized experience.
The push and pull between eating and expelling, penetrating and being penetrated, micro and macro, soft and hard, wet and dry, flat and round, high and low, inside and outside—all factor into Tepper’s understanding of embodiment. Her installations and preliminary drawings, with their grotesquely cheerful colors and patterns, give form to the gut-wrenching and dizzying proposal of living in the world with an atypical female biology, often unseen to others. In “Wall Bowl Constellations” you will enter the house, or maybe the gut, where visual networks of digestions and entanglement make visible the un-seeable, gurgling expanse within and around us.
Katya Tepper (born 1987, South Florida) lives and works in Athens, GA. She earned her BFA from the Cooper Union in 2010, and received the Sara Cooper Hewitt Fund Prize for Excellence in Art. In 2016 she had a solo show at The Hand, Brooklyn, NY. In 2017, her work was included in group shows at Palitz Gallery, New York, and with the Canaries collective at the Elizabeth Foundation Project Space, New York. She is a 2017 recipient of the Wynn Newhouse Award, and will be a Macdowell Fellow this fall.