Yulya Dukhovny | Fisherman’s Dream – The world in Miniature
By Jacqueline Bell Johnson
Through December 11
Located at CSUF Grand Central Art Center
In a small darkened alcove on the main floor of CSUF’s Grand Central Art Center sit three works by Yulya Dukhovny. The exhibition A Fisherman’s Dream -The World in Miniature is a show of paper theatre works contemporized as complex sculptures. Paper theatre is a traditional type of performance featuring a small-scale theatre with puppets and scenery made of paper. The puppets can range from being simple drawn paper shapes to characters with multiple moving parts. I often think of toy theatre as something for children, bright and energetic with quick, bouncy handling of the puppets. These works take on a whole other mood that is mysterious, and potentially dark. A dawdling pace is required to collect snippets of this unusual narrative.
The whole space is enchanting. The dark walls and soft spotlights maximize shadows as if the whole place were run by candlelight. The aesthetic of these pieces is that of carefully minded antiques, embellished and decorated objects that serve a practical yet archaic function.
A bench invites you front and center, to view the toy theatre from the proper vantage point. The theatre has a rustic wooden frame, with slits in the stage to slide the puppets along. Set deep within the stage is a hand painted scene of the fisherman and his wife going through their daily chores at their home on the beach. Executed in a sketchy illustrative style, the paper is made dreamlike by an amber glow. Before sitting down, I just had to peer into the miniature world, beholding the delicate features up close.
A video projection plays in the background. The theatre piece is activated by this projection, making the paper characters look like they are taking part. The video shows enigmatic images with subtle movements which I imagine to be a glimpse into the actual dream of the fisherman.
The sculpture The Small Wooden Sandbox includes a flashlight and headphones to interact with the work. Figures seem to sway under the flashlight’s glare, hidden in the sand. The accompanying sound is an audible collage of music, the ocean and an older man’s voice dropping bits and pieces of a story from his past. The piece taps into the fourth wall, requiring active participation. The work makes magic of the life at sea, in much the same way that Hemingway did. Quiet and self-reflective; every once in awhile, a fish comes along.
On the right wall is a sculpture/panel work. The main surface is a simple gray wash on paper. There is a bottle with a message, a fishing net, and a more elaborate paper puppet of the show’s fisherman, placed in a sparse collage.
Theatre is often a linear mode of storytelling, but the artist moves past tradition. The works in this exhibit tell a story without language, without linear, chronological organization. The show presents the tale by harnessing how dreams are: spotty, fading in and out, made only partially accessible through our memory of it.