Join us in celebration and discussion of Marina Shaltout’s solo show: Ablutions and Affirmations

Ablutions & Affirmations critiques the commodification of “self-care” within a capitalist framework. Drawing upon familiar objects and symbolism from the intimate realm of the bathroom, I navigate the multifaceted act of cleansing – be it literal, figurative, or metaphorical – in the context of our contemporary existence. 

The genesis of this work stems from a personal experience during the summer of 2021, where I grappled with an unsettling loss of hair as I coped with anxieties surrounding the economy, politics, and my career while entering the new post-Covid landscape. Through the use of the bathroom as a hallowed haven, I offer an analogy for the intricate labyrinth of our mental state and the modern apprehensions that shadow our lives. As capitalism peddles the concept of “self-care” as a panacea for the afflictions it has itself engendered, this work exposes the irony of seeking solace in a world that is increasingly destabilized by the very late-stage capitalism that promises our wellness. 

Objects reminiscent of the bathroom ambiance are curated to invoke the transitory calmness we experience when we indulge in candles, a glass of wine, and the catharsis of bathing away our proverbial sins with fancy soaps. However, the core of this work is situated in the tension between bedazzled objects and strands of hair clinging to tiled walls. In this regard, I ask my audience to sit with the uncomfortable interplay between the glamorous and the grotesque, inviting a reflective pause in the face of societal contradictions and beneath the veneer of superficial comfort.

Within the intricate tapestry of today’s global landscape, marked by economic uncertainty and volatile political currents, surviving (and thriving) proves increasingly difficult. The futile affirmations and ablutions in this body of work remind us that no amount of “live-ing, laugh-ing, or love-ing” can immediately remedy the larger issues within our society. Nor can the most perfect bath bomb or bar of soap heal our soul.