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CJ Hendry returns to a warehouse experience in Brooklyn (New York City) to show Rorschach, an art exhibition of illustrative inkblot images. Explore a bounce house dressed as a psychiatric ward and imagine the possibilities for a reestablished understanding of art. Hendry plays with the definition of realism art and shows that her guests are the force for change in perception.

On a quiet street off a cobblestone road, just blocks away from the East River, enter a warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Guests are instructed to wear a hospital bracelet and surrender their belongings to an attendee. Shoes must be taken off and are replaced with a pair of white socks printed with an ambiguous black inkblot image split across the bridge of the foot. You have been admitted into the Rorschach psychology ward.

A white bouncer maze resembling a psychiatric ward awaits. The set piece invites a recreational experience and mental examination of art. The artist’s team explains, “Guests will navigate through a 3,000 square foot bounce house that features padded walls and floors to feel like an old-school insane asylum. The bounce house was created to reflect the art as a juxtaposition of children’s playtime and the clinically insane.”

Run around, hop through, or simply just sit and hang out in the bounce house. Exploring the halls leads one a room unlike any other. Wherein lives the collection of Hendry’s artworks mounted on padded walls. Glossy shapes of inkblot paintings created not by stain but by illustration inspire perception. From a fusion of color (marigold, maroon, cerise, pine) and form (cylinder, swirls and linear shape), the mind identifies and discerns. I see a winged insect and a tribal mask among the collection.

The opportunity for her illustrations to become interactive is Hendry’s desire for Rorschach. Responses are entertained and inquisitive to the definitive structure of realism art. In this exhibit, her illustrations are more than realistic images of Rorschach tests; rather, they are visions from the imagination. See what you must, analyze the conviction in distinguishing imagery, Cj Hendry, the artist and brains behind the installation, shares her perspective in this interview.

Talk me through the exhibition: how did you arrive at the Rorschach project?
I am very proud of the Rorschach exhibition. For a very long time, I have been frustrated with realism because it is so obvious. For example, when I draw boxing gloves, that is all it can be. If I draw a cigarette, it is obviously a cigarette. What I love about the Rorschach series is that everyone will see something different, and I have been interested in trying to get realism to a more abstract place.
I arrived through a lot of exploration into the amalgamation of a very naive subject matter with a much more sinister meaning. What I find interesting is that almost everyone in their lifetime would’ve made a squish painting as a child. To be able to reference children’s squish paintings with the psychological elements of a Rorschach test is a really fascinating concept to me, and more importantly, the viewer will be left with more questions than answers, which I am really excited about.
Your work a lot with color. It was already one of the main elements in your previous work, Monochrome, where you created an immersive installation of a house whose rooms were organized by color (a purple bathroom, an orange working office, a blue living room, etc.). What is your relationship with it?
When I was just starting out, I only worked with black pen, all of my works were black and white. In the last two years, I have been exploring color since I think I still need a break from black and white. Now, I am fascinated with it, with color theory and with mixing different hues. Color ignites different emotions in people.
The installation is quite unique: an all-white bouncing house, as when we were little. And on some of the walls, your latest series of works, of course. It is immersive, playful, fun. What do you want to inspire within guests as they experience Rorschach?
I want people to walk through the show confused. Is it a five-year old’s birthday party with a giant bounce house? Maybe, a psych ward since the bounce house is sewn in a way to replicate the padded walls of an old school psych ward? A Rorschach test? It could be either or depending on how you want to see it.

What is the experiential relationship between the Rorschach images, a painting and colored pencil combination work, and the 3,000-square-foot space built into “an old-school insane asylum”?
Squish paintings are meant to represent children's artwork, and the bounce house is also very childlike – the last time I jumped on a bounce house would’ve been circa 1995 at a friend’s birthday or a school fair. Mixing a naive and interactive concept with the much more complicated and unusual element of the psyche. So once again, it is something you enjoyed as a child but now feels more sterile, creepier and consuming.
With this installation, you present the series outside the usual ‘white box’ of art galleries and institutions. How does the built-out space influence the encounter of the works?
The only way to view the Rorschach artworks is through the psych ward, which is the bounce house. You have to experience the psych ward before understanding the Rorschach tests.
At first glance, it’s unclear how did you make the series: are they photographs? Paintings? Drawings? Could you elaborate on the technique and how do paint and color pencil correlate?
I’m not sure that they are separate from the fact that they are art supplies. I like to mess around with things a little bit and for people’s minds to be tricked. I want people to think that it is painting and then realize that it is a drawing. In a nutshell, for them to question if it is a photograph or a drawing.

There is so much craft and meticulous detail in your work that allows the observer for an instant connection to pop cultural reference s– this was the same experience with previous works of yours like Complimentary Colors and Monochrome. Is there a psychological intention behind the experience of the technique and the observer’s encounter?
Of course there is a relationship, but no more than in my other works. Realism is what it is. It is a skill-based practice. A lot of contemporary art is not skill-based necessarily, so it is sort of funny that I am using realism in a higher end contemporary setting.
How do you want the art world to receive Rorschach?
As an artist, I do not think you can hope for anyone in the art world to receive it in a certain way because that means you would be making art for a particular person or viewer and not for myself. I am not trying to be everything to everyone, I’m just having fun and doing whatever feels right!
 How do you think is Rorschach defining your career?
I think this is a question that can only be answered in a few years; I am too close to it now to know about how it will define my career. Also, I did not look at it as creating this exhibition to define it. One thing I will say though is that I think people will now see that Monochrome was not just a one-off in terms of scale and that I will continue to produce exhibitions that are not just art on a wall.

Words
Valerie McPhail

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