Janet Biggs
Janet Biggs

BuSpar essay,

BuSpar, the title of Janet Biggs's latest video installation, is the name of a prescription drug that is given to both humans and horses for anxiety. Upon entering the darkened gallery space, the viewer is confronted by three floor-to-ceiling projections depicting the image of a seated woman rocking, flanked by two close-ups of galloping horses, nostrils flaring, filmed from the neck up. Accompanying the visuals is the sound of the horse's heavy breathing. This work expands themes found in Biggs's earlier cinematic-like installations: Water Training (1997), which debuted at Solomon Projects, and Girls and Horses (1996), her first large-scale video installation.

The dramatic scale and intensity of BuSpar's images transform the gallery, effectively creating a larger-than-life spectacle in which the viewer enters and becomes part of the installation. At different points in the work, the eyes of the rocking woman suddenly stare out and penetrate our gaze. In this moment, we must ask ourselves, "who is being exposed?" Biggs activates the role of the viewer from spectator to performer to spectator. Her deliberate use of imagery that is both arrestingly beautiful and unsettling in its directness engages the viewer in a tumultuous push/pull of emotional and psychological paradoxes: human anxiety and animal release, fear and fortitude, attraction and repulsion. We are compelled to discover the associations between the equine and human subjects.

Biggs studied painting and sculpture as an undergraduate at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, and in graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design. Like many artists working in the 1980's, she discovered the installation format to convey her message. These early installations focused on the more difficult aspects of childhood experience, exploring issues of insecurity, powerlessness and confinement. As these ideas evolved, the conceptual nature of her work shifted to involve the adult viewer. Themes examining adult fantasy, sexuality and voyeurism became central to her work.

Biggs states that her switch to video was a "very conscious choice," but that she "was not committed to video as a medium." This comment speaks to the importance of content in contemporary art and about video as a tool for artists to express their ideas. BuSpar is testimony to the power and immediacy of video imagery.
Email Like us on Facebook