Touchstone Gallery intern, Aileen Beringer lays her life on the floor in her senior thesis at the Corcoran's 2014 NEXT Exhibit of student work. Titled "I Only Cry in the Shower," the installation is located in a darkened space about 12 feet by 12 feet on the second floor of the museum. It is constructed of broken sheets of glass, a video, written stories, and a suspended field of crystals and jewelry elements. An overhead video projects portraits of Aileen through this rain of hovering crystals onto shattered mirrors resting on the floor. The images are fleeting, changing quickly so that no coherent picture emerges either on the ceiling or the floor - just flickers of a face transformed into colored light by the prism on the floor.
These 3-D elements give us a hint as to what life is like for Aileen. "My shower is lined with my insecurities, my torment, my stories..." she writes. "My own brain is plotting against me...I have three disorders that hold me captive from the rest of the world." The sound element of the installation is Aileen reading the stories she's written then using microphones under the mirrors over laying life sound from the room to give the viewer a sense of what her audio processing disorder is like.
Aileen helps us understand the difficulties she endures by including short narratives in white books attached to the wall. Although she states that it is not easy for her to express herself through the written word, this writing is compelling. Written almost in free verse, her succinct, descriptive sentences make clear what is only hinted at in the flickering video and the distorted sound track. Together they describe the journey of a child who struggled to remain in an Individualized Educational Program at her Albemarle County School. Persevere she did, and in doing so, graduated with high academic achievement, a clearer understanding of her gifts and disorders, a love for the camera and the wide world of photography, and a keen interest in jewelry making techniques.
Aileen was tested by fire during those hard growing-up years. Luckily she was supported by her family and friends. "One of my friends got a camera and let me mess around with it," she recalls. "I knew then that I wanted one of those and got one. Then I started talking photo classes, spent a lot of time messing around in the darkroom, and just fell in love with all of it." As Aileen continues to experiment on the boundaries between photography, sculpture, and sound, who knows what will spin out from her creative hands and mind.
After she graduates this spring Aileen says she "really wants to stay in DC, start more art projects, work in a gallery full time or part time and maybe something like bar tending on the side. "After a year or two," she continues, " I'll start looking into getting a MA or a MFA." In the meantime, her "I Only Cry in the Shower" installation can be viewed at the Corcoran Gallery of Art 10-5 Wed-Sunday until May 18, 2014. The 2014 NEXT exhibit is free at 500 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006 --Rosemary Luckett