The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley: Provocative Art at LACE

The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley Photo Credit Kio Griffith
The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley Photo Credit Kio Griffith

The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley: Provocative Art at LACE

By Genie Davis

Through February 12th


Three curators from LACE’s Emerging Curators Program have put together a compelling seven-artist group show in The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley. Closing February 12th, this show vibrates with the dichotomy of pleasure and pain, the flip sides of that coin and the way in which moments of transformation are bound to and cause both.

Curated by Virginia Broersma, Nick Brown and Kio Griffith, the works here engage on a serious level, with subjects such as religious experiences, race, gender, and sexual identity permeating richly evocative artworks.

The exhibit is decidedly poetic, touching on the thematic conundrum that we may indeed be inspired from something as horrific as a mad scientist creating a new life. Or that we are in fact that scientist. Our own internal alchemy is both wondrous and terrifying. With Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the show’s inspiration, we are looking at the fearsome as inspirational, and the inspiration, the impulse to create, as perhaps more than a little frightening itself. We are looking, in short, at the passion of creation and the transformative and terrifying aspects of change that creation can bring.

The curators have described their show as both “exhibition and lab,” with some works drawing from history, others an homage to literature. Artists exhibiting include Cassils, Nathan Danilowicz, Valerie Hegarty, Naotaka Hiro, Candice Lin, Gala Porras-Kim, and Annie Lapin. The experiment is in the eyes of the viewer.

The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker
The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

Viewers enter the exhibit by way of a passage created by artist Nathan Danilowicz’s Volans Anguli. This piece evolves as one enters the gallery from overpowering black beams to flying buttresses toward the back of the room. These suggest images of a shattered cathedral or the bones of a ruined giant.

Candice Lin offers The Worm Husband a hand-blown terrarium in which silkworms weave cocoons. Transformation, re-imagining, and a striking commentary on something that is taken over, adapted without choice strike the viewer. Valerie Hegarty’s “Ghost of History” uses distortion, painting and repainting, to create a new take on a historical painting of George Washington. Her changes are not positive – she may or may not be referencing our present political state: perhaps there are no more “patriots” and we are instead subsumed into something far darker, more inchoate. Hegarty also exhibits an installation that includes thickly layered painted papers on the floor and walls, which is then peeled back. Secrets? Other places, hidden? Have we covered or are in the process of exhuming transformation?

Notaka Hiro’s video is dark and dreamlike, another take on transformation. Night and Fog, Tubes on Black Mountain is both nightmare and vision, a response to a film he himself saw about the Holocaust. Viewers watch a somewhat loathsome image of sausage meat unraveling, falling apart, like all flesh torn asunder. Ashes to ashes and meat to – meat.

Another video work, by transgender artist Cassils, takes viewers along on a performance of Tiresias who transformed from man to woman. Here the artist’s body is pressed into an ice carving of a Greek statue, melting that ice with body heat. This video appears as a commentary on transformation as painful as well as on the transience of any form.

The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker
The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley
Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

From the exhibit’s title and the elegiac feel of these artworks the exhibition is a tribute both poignant and powerful, a tribute above all else, to change itself. To the imagination, the dreams, the nightmare, the often dark alchemy of human existence, and our insistence on telling our story, whether in the words of Mary Shelley or in the visionary art exhibited here.

LACE is located at 6522 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood.

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