The Mechanic’s Daughter
KaPow&GaBoo Projects is honored to present Samantha Joy Groff’s first major solo exhibition in New York City, “The Mechanic’s Daughter,” as part of Spring/Break Art Show 2021. Presented in an imagined rural setting replete with a straw strewn floor, Groff’s lurid paintings depicting sexually intertwined human and animal bodies cast a critical yet ironically warm eye on the Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite community. Groff’s work depicts the working-class experience of rural communities in an unflinching gaze. Capturing the small, Christian Mennonite subculture as they face the loss of crafts and traditions no longer upheld by contemporary practitioners, distorted figures engage in questionable acts that challenge the history and conversative values of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Surrounded by pickled vegetables and corn husks, “The Mechanic’s Daughter” immerses artist and visitors in scenes portraying themes both good and bad, beautiful and ugly. The earnestness of the work draws viewers’ attention directly to the down and dirty elements of rural life while allowing enough irony to play darkly on stereotypes of bestiality and incest, abolishing tired cliches in radical acts of reimagination. Visitors are invited to witness the human becoming animal becoming human that reveals how mainstream culture often reduces the rural to an animalistic existence. Outlandish scenes, contorted figures with inscrutable expressions, and vulgar allegories for the complexity of earthly desires all stand in bizarre contrast to the down-home and run-down staging of the installation. Quixotic displays cut across wood and wallpaper, highlighting the tension between audience expectations of rural living and the messy reality of its living diversity. Humorous, decidedly not-so-serious figures embrace, crush fruit, and frolic undifferentiated from their animal counterparts in a frank and careful display that challenges outsider prejudice from the inside while delivering a scathing criticism of repressive norms. While celebrating a liberatory movement away from the repressive, traditional roles she experienced in her youth, Groff’s work combines the perspectives of intimacy and alienation. At once an insider while standing weirdly on the outside, Groff brings intimate empathy and a scandalous humor to the muddy streams of America’s backwaters.