Object Commentary: Shannon Morris at Artful

Shannon Morris, Mother, upcycled trophies and mixed media, installation view at Artful Cleveland

Shannon Morris’s current show greets visitors at the entrance to Artful Cleveland: as Mother’s Day approaches, she offers a heroic shrine of trophies stacked to form a pyramid that is both precarious and solid. Shannon, a long time estate sale and thrift shopper, renews the thrifted trophies in a way that reveals presence, strength, appreciation and joy. The word MOTHER is prominently spelled out at the base of the piece, anchoring the vintage trophies, which are adorned with other ribbons and regalia honoring moms. As a mother herself, Shannon knows all too well how it feels to be invisible and unappreciated. The installation welcomes participation: visitors can add their own heartfelt labels to the trophies that describe their own mothers. Written hearts are attached, with words like “fighter,” “travel agent,” “chef” and “snuggler.”

In addition to her art practice, Shannon is a co-founder and executive director of Artful Cleveland, so this show is on home turf. Artful Cleveland is located on the P.E.A.C.E Campus in Cleveland Heights–the former Coventry School, now owned by Cleveland Heights University Heights Library. Shannon and company have managed the relationship with their landlord tenaciously, even as the Library system would not sign long-term lease, despite broad community support.

Shannon Morris, Are You Fulfilled? Recycled Apple product packaging

The MOTHER shrine is part of a wildly amusing exhibition called Object Commentary: The Art of Shannon Morris.  Shannon is a satirist who shares a similar humor and vibe with the columnist Erma Bombeck, who wrote about her own experience as a mother from the Silent Generation.  Shannon’s work has a razor-sharp wit about living life, getting married, raising kids, getting divorced, having a career but doing it in the year of 2024 in this fraught space of meta judgement, filtered through the doom-scrolling of tech and social media.  Pain and pleasure principals are embedded in her works, which are ruthlessly honest and laugh-out-loud funny.

Shannon Morris, Bombard

In a piece called Bombard, a wall-mounted monitor resembling an iPhone screen reveals ads from Instagram that have been algorithmically selected for her, based on her demographic. The ads determined by those algorithms are displayed in a continuous scroll, revealing what advertisers calculate a 50-year old Shannon must want in her life. Chair yoga, anti-aging creams, crow’s feet antidotes and belly fat serums all appear, based on her profile data. Shannon–wildly fascinated with these outcomes– wants to further experiment with these asshole capitalist algorithms and is looking for more folks to collaborate with in future projects.

Another ‘look closely’ moment in the show is a series of Rolodexes that could have been plucked from the prop room of Mad Men, the AMC television series in which ad agency executive Don Draper would call on his secretary to finger through the alphabetical system to locate a client contact for her boss. “Do not be alone with this man” reads one of the contact cards in Shannon’s farcical replay.   

Shannon has a gift for acknowledging the pain, sexism, and ageism women experience, all while turning it on its head through subversion and jest. The jest is her just reward.  She does this remarkably with resiliency and humor, creating a space for people to laugh. Her work emerges with comic relief, wherein she finds freedom, peace and affection. Shannon shares the stories of the familiar, everyday heroines through the fascinating objects that she found, saved, cherished and released back into the world for us to appreciate. This is a great show for the intergenerational families of women out there to celebrate this special day we devote to our mothers.

Object Commentary: The Art of Shannon Morris

April 26 – May 31, 2024

Artist Talk at 6 pm May 16

Open Gallery hours 5 – 7 pm May 23

Open Gallery Hours 5 – 7 pm May 30

And by appointment

Artful Cleveland

2843 Washington Blvd.

Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118


The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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