STARDECK Academy, Erica Ryan Stallones
Elephant Art Space, Los Angeles
By Jacqueline Bell Johnson
Astrology is often thought of as fortune telling, hocus pocus, even silliness. But what if it is, in fact, a demonstration of everyday systems and how our lives are so entrenched in systemic order? Astrology is, at its simplest, calculations based on positions of celestial bodies in time.
These giant bodies align and misalign as they travel our solar system, their impact felt by everything around them, including a population of hairless mammals on a modest-sized planet lightyears away. Artist Erica Ryan Stallones doesn’t look at astrology as a dictator of our lives, but merely a participatory system that gives some insight as to how we already are. It’s not about influence as much as it is about revelation. Furthermore, she views astrology as “the language of our solar system.”
STAR DECK Academy at Elephant Art Space, is a collection of small, impeccably and pristinely, painted images scattered around the walls and also under glass on four table-like pedestals in the middle of the space. The scattering is a display of specific arrangements according to her own astrological input that reflect on levels of astrology lesser known to pop culture. Key words like “house,” “rising,” and “lunar nodes” all live here with significant meaning.
Collectively, these gouache and watercolor paintings are the Study Deck. They consist of shapes in bright colors, simply arranged in tight compositions. These paintings are very approachable, with an intimate scale of 7 by 5 inches. They are fun to go through. Viewers will find themselves hopping from one to the next in search for what image will be their favorite. (Apparently, even those aesthetic preferences fit a profile.) These are intuitive symbols the artist has created to further explore this system and the “physical and symbolic connection between mind, body, spirit and matter.”
A video piece, AstroAerobics Lab, accompanies the paintings. The film is a visual demonstration of the astrological aspects of one’s sign. Fellow artist Chelsea Rector, under Stallone’s direction, performs AstroAerobics movements as each sign. Rector is seen moving in peculiar and sometimes outright hilarious ways, shown a few seconds at a time in symbolic settings such as a pool, parking garage stairway, and kids’ bedroom. Each place represents an astrological house, which also influences the movements executed.
The artist has printed 10 limited edition STAR DECK Academy Study Decks, for those who would like to do their own readings. They include all the paintings in the gallery all beautifully reproduced as 56 two-sided, full color cards.
While the paintings themselves are worth a look, the exhibition can be a lot to digest conceptually for someone who knows little about astrology. To counter that, Ryan Stallones has made herself available to chat with viewers in the exhibition space. Her printed deck and the artist statement both offer some guidance and instructions on how to use the “cards,” gently reminding the viewer that intuition and exploration are encouraged.