Walking on eggshells takes on a deeper meaning through live performance at Union Gallery this week.
Sarah Jihae Kaye, BFA ’24 and BEd ’25, performed live at the Union Gallery in October and November to demonstrate the intersection of pain, care, and resilience through the fragility of eggshells. The series is called The Side Effects of Red Brick Walls, which depicts the meaning of walking on eggshells in domestic relationships.
Kaye used eggshells to represent the fragility of relationships and how easily they’re broken. In her live performance, audiences watched Kaye on a stage scattered with broken eggs. Kaye tip-toed around them as a visual depiction of the metaphor “walking on eggshells.” She did this to portray the caution and delicacy of one’s actions in a tension-filled relationship.
“It describes a tension within relationships where communication is one-sided—having to be overly cautious in your actions to avoid conflict. I tried to find the intersection between these different meanings and integrate them into my work,” Kaye said in an interview with The Journal.
Kaye started this project in 2020, after spending a year at home and being in an unhealthy relationship. She explained the symbolism of eggs in art and literature as images of birth and renewal, using these themes to showcase the complexity of her past relationship. Eggshells are also an important form of materiality for Kaye.
“Every material has the potential of revealing these personal and collective narratives because every material has [its] own context and histories. Through this eggshell live performance, I’ve been really listening to the materials and their [symbolism],” Kaye said.
Kaye feels clothing, materials, and objects are emotional archives of time. She used this definition to explain how individuals attach different meanings and definitions to materials to explain their histories.
“I use those meanings in my work and listen to their histories and what they tell me.”
She said each of her installations are site-specific. When she was given the space at Union Gallery, she thought about how she wanted to interact with the room, incorporating her lived experience into her work.
“A lot of my work is investigations into my personal experiences growing up in the church and exploring the ways in which bodily trauma relates to its environment,” Kaye said.
She wanted to let her individual story convey a collective experience, comparing her goals for the exhibit to Francis Bacon’s self-portrait “Three Studies for Self-Portrait,” which Kaye saw at The Metropolitan Museum of Art a few years ago. Kaye said she resonated with Bacon’s piece on an emotional level.
“At the time [Kaye seeing “Three Studies for Self-Portrait”], I lost a couple of friends that year, and I started bawling my eyes out. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who cried seeing this.”
After engaging with Bacon’s work, Kaye wanted the viewers to think they were part of a larger collective.
She hopes to show the impact of sharing a home, and how people are inevitably bound to one another, like within the walls of the exhibit.
“As you get older, the interplay of love, dependency and fear, among other factors, alters your sense of home and what you long for. The comfortability of these often-imbalanced relationships, I think just the closeness of it all, is what makes [domestic relationships] complex.”
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