“IT LANDED RIGHT in it,” says Houston artist and scientist Suzette Mouchaty.
She’s talking about her show, Reckless Meditations, which opens this weekend at G Spot Gallery, just days after the Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“I think we saw it coming,” says the artist, who also holds a Ph.D. in genetics, of the reversal. Her reproductive-system-themed sculptures and drawings were created during the summer months of 2020, when she says she observed condemnable motives arising from some quarters. “Those issues really became urgent during the pandemic, when folks who want to reclaim some bygone era, [during which] things were very different for women and ethnic and racial minorities, saw an opening, while the rest of us were trying to survive Covid.”
Mouchaty herself suffered “deep stress” during the pandemic, and, despite having taken all the prescribed precautions, become seriously ill with Covid-19. The trauma of those months of quarantine can be felt throughout Reckless Meditations — though there is also a sense of empowerment and plenty of dark humor throughout Mouchaty's art.
A series of untitled 24-by-18-inch drawings, each done with Prisma colored pencils, transform an illustration of the female reproductive system into a kaleidoscopic explosion of wild and psychedelic patterns, looking more like something you’d see in Heavy Metal than Harvard Medicine magazine. “It’s also a power symbol,” says Mouchaty of the image. Also included among her Reckless Meditations is a gaggle of steel, vaginal speculums, poised like a flock of birds with open beaks, and ignoring the saggy presence of an X-chromosome, a hand-stitched soft sculpture made from curtain fabric and stuffing from an old comforter.
Although she pursued art during high school, she stopped when she got to college, where she studied science; she got a Ph.D. in genetics from Lund University in Sweden and now teaches science classes at UH Downtown. But years later, the need to create art returned, and Mouchaty completed an MFA in 2018 at UH in interdisciplinary practices and emerging forms. In conversation, Mouchaty is quick to laugh, and exudes all the wonder and enthusiasm you would expect from someone who views the world both as an artist and a scientist.
And despite her feeling that world has gone off its rocker, the meditative process of making art provides her with a profound sense of calm. “When I’m making art, my preferred mode is to be operating in a way where my conscious thinking is pushed aside,” says Mouchaty. “It’s also a spectacularly fascinating to step back and go, ‘Oh, my God. That’s what I made?’”