A Soaring Look at 2020: Our Vision. Our Voices.
Written by Genie Davis
Among the many ways to welcome the new year, a visit to the 3-D online gallery at Sloan Fine Art exhibiting 2020: Our Vision. Our Voices. is a great place to start.
The nine female artists, Jessicka Addams, Lydia Emily, Kristine Schomaker, Deirdre Sullivan-Beeman, Kathiucia Dias, Lydia Breckenridge, Kate Kelton, Margaret Ouchida, and Sally Sloan, are each exhibiting works in a space well-curated by Alix Sloan and Deirdre Sullivan Beeman.
Each has roots in SoCal, but there the similarity ends. The artists all work in different mediums, using unique approaches to examine the struggles and marginalizing of others, advocating for those affected by everything from
sexism, ageism, racism, body shaming, objectification, and homophobia, to abuse and/or mental illness, as the exhibition notes relate.
Originally scheduled for presentation at the Annenberg Community Beach Housein Santa Monica, with the facility closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the curators took the show virtual, where it has found a splendid home for viewers themselves staying safe inside.
One of the reasons the show translates well virtually is the intensity or intimate nature of the images. Each piece has its own special glow, both in terms of passion and subject, as well as medium.
Sullivan-Beeman is renowned for her use of a technique involving luminescent egg tempura paint, applied in delicate layers. Her application of a 14th century process belies the modern aesthetic for a digital age. But it suits the subjects of her work, surreal fairy-tale-like images both magical and mystical, birthed from the dream-state and wise, feminist wisdom. Her mix of the figurative with the surreal is as unique as her technique. “Little Kitten Girl,” created on an aluminum canvas, gives us a cherubic but strong-looking child with a tiny kitten on her shoulder. Sullivan-Beeman often uses animals watching out for and serving as guides to another realm for her subjects, and here the image is warm as well as watchful and protective. “Catnip Girl & The Seven Cats,” also painted on aluminum, mixes egg tempura with oil in the image of a disembodied female head floating like a balloon above eager, reaching cats. These felines could be different ideas or beings clamoring for her attention, or a kingdom she rules over, having evolved to float above this world, devoid of the complaints or needs of the body.
Sullivan-Beeman’s work is well paired with that of Dias, whose stunning oil on panel “Dust to Dust” gives us a powerful looking, gas-mask-wearing young woman in the desert. She is the protector here, by necessity, of whatever world is left to her. She is enthroned over a trail of skulls, two spray bottles of cleaning product on either side of her feet, like scepters by her throne. This is power in devastation; her only protective daemon is a tiny stuffed bear.
Equally devastating is Dias’ “Makeshift Nature” in which a young woman bathes in a vividly blue inflatable tub, a colorful paper butterfly suspended on the ceiling, a skeleton standing sentry outside the door in a wash of harsh white light.
Working in watercolor, pencil, and luminous pricks of LED light, Ouchida gives us another sort of fairy tale in “Rendezvous.” A royal blue sky stands out behind a maiden in medieval dress, communing with a unicorn in a far more benevolent vision.
Addams offers a magic-tale of her own in “Rainbow Exit,” a mixed media sculptural work with embroidery, gold leaf, and clay. Here, a black cat reaches upward, toward the rainbow bridge that we often speak of as a euphemism for the demise of a beloved animal. As he or she enters another realm, perhaps that realm will include the guardianship of humans in need of guidance. Embroidered rainbows turn up in other Addams images here as well, such as “Listen,” in which rainbows spill from an ear surrounded by gold leaf. The artist asks us to do just that, to hear what we wish to create.
In “Her,” we are compelled to see rather than hear. Artist Lydia Emily has painted an astounding double image of herself as artist and “god” creating a new being, a different version of herself, a being she is in the process of assembling with screw drivers, nails, internal gears. Absorbed in the riveting process of recreation, the artist shapes and forms, much as the viewer is invited to shape and form our own iteration of ourselves, our beliefs, our world.
Kate Kelton is both beautiful and fierce in her series of lustrous images, these jewel-like works radiate an inner light in shades of emerald and aqua and brown. These lovely portraits offer viewers intense gazes, crowning headdresses, a true sense of spirit, hope, and strength. Art Noveau made contemporary in style, her women leap forth, goddesses and warriors crowned, true “wonder women,” manifesting protection. “Army of Me,” an action portrait caught in profile, wears a shell-like helmet; the undefeated woman in “That Just Made the Bullies Worse,” carries the weight of the world above an elegant, tactile turban. Each image bears a lush, heavy headdress that speaks of architecture, lineage, and power.
The “Plus-Censored” photographic series from Schomaker exemplifies power and strength in a different way. Featuring digitally censored images of her own body, the artist explores the road map of her flesh, exposing herself, her vulnerability, her passion, her strength. The unframed, large-scale works gives us a figure ready to take on the world, but with compassion as well as passion; compassion for her body and spirit as well as that of others. She uses almost washed-out, opalescent color, as if the photographs were of Roman Empire sculptures caught in moonlight.
It is also of the body that Breckenridge speaks. Working in textiles, the artist gives us a cozy, quilt-like medium, the better to wrap us in the pain and hope and anger of which she speaks. An arm reaches with inchoate longing toward scattered needles in “Pinhead;” turned away in profile, face hidden behind a chaste bonnet, the female figure in “Just Another One Night Stand” is pinned off-center, surrounded on one side by discarded ballet shoes. “Sold Out” gives us an ominous world view as framing, with the titular phrase in a button, below which are skulls and Nazi-symbols, and an ex-ed out image of our 45th president.
There is an infused hope as well as deeply mournful feeling in the images from Sloan. They glow with radiant colors, but the abstract collage and acrylic of “Faded Glory” and the falling neurological confetti of “Memory,” contain as much sadness as hope. Similarly, the visceral “Alone” gives us a brilliantly colored apartment building set against a rich blue sky; inside one of the units sits a silently dark profile of a figure in a wheelchair.
Despite its repeated looks into the abyss, the overall feeling of the exhibition is one of potential, of power, of speaking truth to lies, of faith and magic invoked against all odds to overcome the experiences in which we are forced to live or wish to fight against. It’s the perfect show to wring out the last of this tired year and ring in the bells of welcome to a new year and new battles to be fought.