photo: Gary LilleyThe Technological Watchdog
Renée Stout exercises the inspirational, empowering functions of a conjurer in her transformations of found materials and interpretations of ideas and feelings. With her equally strong sense of theater, she has developed a group of imaginary characters to communicate her understanding of the world. The lives of these characters unfold in complex, interrelated narratives that Stout embeds in individually distinct objects, tableaux, and room-size installations.
Madam Ching, a fortune-teller and rootworker, is one such character, a Stout alter ego based on a psychic who lived in the Pittsburgh neighborhood where the artist grew up. Since 1994, Stout's identification with the old fortune-teller has become so strong that she has created room-size installations to evoke the mystery of the environments she inhabits. Madam Ching's Parlor, containing her conjuring board, desk, vest, and other items, is a behind-the-scenes look at the conjurer's, and, by extension, Stout's, private abode.