Gazing Into the Great Unknown, A New Site Specific Installation by Erika Lizée
Pierce College Art Gallery, Woodland Hills, CA
Through September 27
By Jennifer Susan Jones
Taking in Erika Lizée’s current installation, “Gazing Into the Great Unknown,” one marvels at the marine-rich, ocean-like palette that is a spectacle of swirls, streams, and shaded ivory curves, all expertly rendered in a trompe l’oeil splendor that undulates off the gallery walls and seemingly, (partially, impossibly) into the air. Here we are given a chance to slow down, to step back, to backpedal into an alternate reality reminiscent of the origins of life itself. The installation as a whole, is a time-travel vessel, distorting, playing with perceptions, taking viewers on a fantastic voyage into the center of creation.
Stepping aside from the experience itself – and coming back to this dimension — one begins to examine Lizée’s possibilities of process and technique. It’s easy to envision the artist as a meticulous surgeon, taking a straight blade to acrylic-painted Dura-Lar film like a surgeon wields a scalpel to tender skin. Accurate, patient precise; somehow both magnified and yet retreated; cutting between cosmic layers, avoiding mini crises, teasing tools around exquisite ivory bone. The artist-surgeon exposes botanic tissue, tendons, and cording (this organic connective mesh that is beneath our naked eyes).
Smooth layers are peeled away, caverns of being are exposed beneath, but the openings are gentle and curved, not jagged or torn — it is more of a permissive parting, a sacred gap giving us permission to peek into places our heads crave to experience. It’s Mother Nature’s Twilight Zone: ocean waves enmeshed with hollow bone.
There is something of the supernatural imbued within Lizée’s motifs. Alien aspects woven into the very fabric of the familiar, whereby tangents taken are utterly unpredictable and without bounds: imagine an altered doily dragged through a gel-thick sea; the rich, marine fluid clinging to the roping strands, layering a frosting-like richness through the ever thickening coils. And Lizée’s less perfect tendrils (covered in poured acrylic paint) are textured with patterns like those seen on the flank of a massive, gliding whale. (imagined light above leaving patterns of flicker along the body of the sub-sea mammal).
On the whole, Lizée’s installation embodies the gestalt of vintage discovery (the natural world as seen through novel methods of inquiry). Scientists in the 1600s peered into the first microscopes and telescopes, illustrating the fascinations they were now capable of perceiving. Natural philosopher Robert Hooke, author/illustrator of 1665’s “Micrographia” (the first book to illustrate living things as seen through microscopes) made drawings of what he saw, and Galileo and Newton first gazed at celestial bodies. Imagine the utter fascination with such endeavors, and ponder the creative paths (and perhaps fears) opened by such feats. We cannot go back and re-discover their world, but Lizée’s works give us a beautiful glimpse.