Installation by Mary Eve Minieka
Nada Gallery
40 Rivington, New YorkCity

Notes by Michael Moynihan

Hands. Praying. Eighteen pairs of them appear in Mary Eve Minieka’s new installation at the Nada gallery. They’re made of plaster and grouped in three parallel rows of six. Six blood red pairs in plastic bags, six black pairs dangling from nooses, six white pairs sticking out from the other wall, as though praying over the rest. 6-6-6. They represent the Disappeared, the Dead and the Unidentified.

Mary Minieka understands madonnas, saints and other religious icons. In her Madonna series, she painted plaster madonnas in army camoflauge, wound them in barbed wire, covered them over with cockroaches. In her series of crosses, she painted the heavy wooden items in day-glo colors, as though decking them out for use. In her new installation, she has chosen the simple form of hands praying. Yet, as in her previous work, the religious symbol has walked into a political stage. Minieka’s madonnas arrive dressed for war, trapped behind barbed wire, or mired in corruption. Her praying hands have been dismembered, lynched, or if lucky allowed to pray for the salvation of others.

Minieka’s themes include Good, Evil and Chaos. Come what may, though, she always remain Mary. For besides the political, there is a personal side to her work. The Madonna is Mary. The individual Mary is also subject to circumstance. And indeed I can’t talk about Mary’s work without talking abut Mary herself, or Eve, or Mary Eve, depending on which embodiment of womanhood one glimpses in her at the moment. From her Catholic girlhood in the Midwest, Minieka has inherited a rich legacy of symbols. With a deft hand, she weds them to the political issues of the day, whether in Central America or on Rivington Street or in the life of the individual. Which is what I mean when I say she understands religious icons. She is one. When I look at Minieka’s work or her life, I always feel I’ve been granted a glimpse into the primeval flux, allowed to peak into the atom, permitted a seat at the green felt table where God and the Devil play dice. There is a tension in her work between good and evil and a sympathy with what scientists say is the creative spring of the universe: Chaos.

Recently, Minieka began silk screening her cockroaches and barbed wire onto dresses, scarves and sheets for sale at Nieman Marcus, as well as New York boutiques. And I find it intriguing to imagine her barbed wire sheets on the beds of Texas millionaires, coming up in their conversations, raining out at bridal showers in Palm Beach, as anniversary gifts in Phoenix, just as they make the rounds here at Nells, the Tunnel and Gem Spa. Once more the tension between violence and innocence, here barbed wire vs. the delicate silk of a dress. While she silk screens the image onto her clothing, Minieka uses real barbed wire in her furniture. Her sculptures of used rusty razor blades likewise play with our fear of physical injury. Looking at capital punishment, Minieka tracked down the last Suppers of the 70 odd men and women put to death since 1976. Here she found one of those murderous contradictions which define civilization: before we kill a man, we feed him. But by examining this barbarism in its religious context she draws further meaning from the idea. In her collages of newspaper images, missiles, leaders and other senseless spewings of the media, Minieka almost seems to take snapshots of the Chaos. Henry Miller said of writing, one should ‘dive deep and never come up." Minieka has made good that advice in art, bringing us messages from the void, from dangerous places by uncertain seas where she treads easily, with a child’s protection, as though watched over by the Spirit of Art.

At her opening, I found myself in a contingent of media, Flash Art, Bomb, Antaeus and the New York Times, making that dark trip from Soho to Loisada, in other words, from safety to danger, into the glowing cauldron of Nada.

On Rivington Steet, a work of art must be tough as well as good. If it can’t withstand some punches and possible hammer blows, it may not survive the opening. Minieka’s praying hands at six feet above ground cleared most of the crushing crowd. Jim C. was taking advantage of the window sill to once more film and document the murky, shadowy doings of the Lower East Side.

I saw familiar faces, numerous student-truants of the Rivington Reform School, both graduates and those held back (who could ask for nothing more) like the couple dancing on Mary’s barbed wire chair (which didn’t break). Legions of other celebrities. Then the slam dancing began, but at six feet above ground, the installation remained unprofamed, its hands prayed in peace. The opening continued long into the night until the bar ran out and a six pack lasted no more than a second. The following day I came back to see the installation alone.

In the quiet Sunday light, through the open door, the installation and space clarified each other. The space became a trinity, three rows of praying hands, a crystal bi-cut knave. And that’s when I realized that Nada is really a Church. A storefront church, with services conducted daily in all outlawed languages, with a congregation of the Deranged, the Drugged and the Insane, or the Disappeared, the Dead and the Unidentified, who after all, even in America are ourselves.