Urges from the Renwick: A review of the “Wonder” exhibit

Whenever I go to an exhibit for the first time I take two walks around. On the first walk I go in blind. I do not read the descriptions or the artist statement, I go just to look. The second walk around can be more or less exciting depending on the collaboration between my thoughts and the artist’s intentions. On my first through the gallery I had the urge to touch. Not the gentle poke or glide of the hand that many patrons want to indulge in. I had the urge to squeeze and rub and feel. I experience urges like these often and I understand that this is weird. My roommate’s mother defined this as heenya, a Spanish word with no exact definition or spelling that I understand as an overwhelming urge of the sense. This review is about my first walk through the WONDER Exhibition at the Renwick Gallery and the urges it gave me.



I wanted to stick my hand between the woven branches and feel the smooth edges press against my fingertips and my palm and the back of my hand. I wanted to keep pushing until my arm was all the way in, and then my body. I wanted to know what this would feel like.



The roundness of this piece made me itch. I could feel the bumpiness of it under my skin. As I walked closer to the lumpy mountains and was able to see the sharp edges of the index cards, looking at it became more bearable. I hated this piece because it somehow crawled under my skin and touched me as if it had its own urges.


Anonymous donor

This I wanted to bite. I wanted to grab a piece of tire that was sticking out and bite down on it hard with the teeth in the back of my mouth. I did not want to touch it with my hands though.



I wanted to hear this one. I imagined that if a strong wind blew in and caused the hanging pieces to smack together it would sound like wind chimes. Then I wanted to rub the palm of my hands against the sharp hanging pieces. Then I thought about these two things happening at the same time. I wanted to hear and feel this piece at the same time.


Middle Fork

This I wanted to lay in. I wanted to slide down the inside of the hollow tree like shape and feel the curves and the bumps press against my back and neck. I wanted to rub my arms against the sides as I did this and feel the ridges scrape lightly against my skin. This piece I wanted to feel, and inhale.


Folding Chesapeake

Surprisingly I did not want to put these marbles in my mouth. The permanence of them laid out side by side on the ground and the wall gave me the urge to roll my palms and the webs of my fingers over them.


In The Midnight Garden

Dead things scare me. I do not like to look at them or think about them, and I find it weird that people are able to do either. I thought about how I have no problem killing insects but seeing their dead bodies after the fact makes me uneasy. The skeleton shaped heads formed out of the dead bodies of the insects that decorated the walls quickly ushered me out of the room. The only urge this piece gave me was to run.

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