Beauty Queen, Heartbreaker, High Maintenance
Track 16 Gallery, Los Angeles
through March 20
Written by Genie Davis
Galia Linn’s Beauty Queen, Heartbreaker, High Maintenance, now at Track 16 Gallery in DTLA, takes the viewer into a new dimension, from the neotlithic cities in Southern Turkey that inspire Linn of everything to a mystical place beyond location in which there was no separation between life and death or the treatment between men and women. For myself, it also brought up memories of the traveling King Tut exhibition and a long-ago visit to London’s British Museum; the work here is similarly grand.
Both a reimagining of and a glorious new interpretation expanding on classic pieces taken from the tombs of the dead, Linn uses vivid pinks and rich earthen browns to create these primarily large-scale works. Each has an intensity of spirit and delicate grace that transcends time and reality. It is a particularly resonant exhibition today, allowing us to visit a world quite different from our own without leaving Los Angeles. It vibrates with a unique and even revolutionary way of combining a deep tribute to the power of the past with a look toward both an unknown and future world.
“Mezuzah,” the large-scale, welcoming winged torso that begins the exhibition includes a motif taken from a hieroglyphic on the walls of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, one associated with the idea of “sky burial,” which the inhabitants practiced by placing their beds above tombs of the dead. The soaring and uplifting idea of a burial not underground but raised toward the sky sets the stage for this solemn yet deeply life-affirming show. Throughout, working in clay, stucco, and decomposed granite, Linn gives viewers an approximation of visiting a reimagined mystical Çatalhöyük.
The colors in “Mezuzah” are repeated grandly in her impressive “Womb/Tomb,” which has the feel of a sarcophagi from a distant galaxy. A goddess-like, feminine shape is cut from the top of the tomb, from which you could imagine a rebirth taking place, or the placement of an urn filled with ashes. The curved tusk-like pink arms hovering as a barrier around the entire tomb are both honorary arch and protective device. They create a sense of an opening taking place, and with it, both the miraculous and the terrifying – elements of both death and birth. Strands of pink drip down into the opening like spider webs. Linn has described the work as both the beginning and the end. This piece and the exhibition itself vibrate with this pairing, this dichotomy of life and death, and a profound reverence for both. If of the earth we arise and to the earth we are reborn, Linn’s masterful use of clay as a medium offers tactile proof.
Like sentinels, the brown, black, and beige glazed stonework of her series of Stone Guardians series stand watch and wait to be set free of their cocoon of stone. Using a variety of clays, from Black Mountain to Sonora White, each of these inchoate figures are unique and lovely, touched by elements of pink – on one an imprint of a hand, in another striped rings. Smaller glazed stone sculptures on the floor resemble both giant beetles or souls constrained beneath water-glazed river rocks. They are circled in waiting. There is a great intimacy to each of these shapes, as if we might be privy to their awakening.
On one wall hang long, champagne-beige fabric and horsehair “curtains.” Elegant and elegiac, these are both titled as self-portraits, and are both ghostly and grand. Linn seems to offer up an amorphous answer to questions about what remains unseen within the draped and curtained soul.
Ladder-like stick figures, red on hot pink, form the composition of wall sculptures hung on the opposite wall, household paint on plywood and stucco, each “Pink Guardian” is textured as if the image was a welt arising magically on a bright pink skin.
Moving into the exhibit’s last room, wall shelves carry Linn’s three-row series of 36 “Building Blocks.” One-third of the sales for these reasonably priced smaller glazed clay works goes to the support of A Room of One’s Own women and women-identified artists residency, and mentorship at the newly non-profit Arts at Blue Roof in South Los Angles. Each is unique, ranging in palette from pink to black and brown; they are uniquely marked and bear the same treasured gravity of additional tomb objects.
Turning toward the exhibition’s title, Beauty Queen, Heartbreaker, High Maintenance, Linn looks to address both the labeling of women – in life, and death – and a common female trajectory, in which women are viewed first as a beauty queen, then as a heartbreaker, perhaps in rejecting those who attempt to “worship” her, and later viewed as high maintenance in the sense that women want things they may not be expected or allowed to obtain (such as equality). Another way to look at this title is in experience: women are revered, they are crowned; they both experience heartbreak in birth and in death, and they may cause it; if they dare to strike out on their own, or recognize their own importance, they may act in such a way as to be described as high maintenance individuals.
From title to each carefully wrought piece, this exhibition’s final interpretation is up to the viewer and one’s perception of the grand universe of life and death in which we are all a part. Linn’s conception is wonderful indeed.
Linn’s richly poetic show is on exhibit at Track 16 Gallery in the Bendix building through this weekend, March 20th. The gallery is located at 1206 Maple Ave. Ste. 1005 in downtown. It is open by appointment; the exhibition is also viewable online.
Track 16 Gallery
1206 Maple Ave #1005, Los Angeles, 90015