Emily Wiseman Has the Power

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Above, from Powerful

The culmination of a month-long Shoebox Projects residency, a reception for Emily Wiseman’s Powerful will be held February 12th from 3-5 p.m.

 

 

Wiseman’s installation here is a continuation of her “Occupy Series,” exploring fabric and pattern. These lush, textural works consider the symbolism of their material and how it is used in the design of men’s business suits, long seen as symbolizing power and wealth.

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Above, detail from “If Wishes Were Horses”

Wiseman has made the very cloth these suits are cut from into gorgeous yet subversive political art. The artist deconstructs and redesigns the suits, making them into decorative, beautiful objects that exude a feminine sense of comfort, using them to reflect the opposite of their original design and function.

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Above, “If Wishes Were Horses”

The “occupy” refers to the idea of determining just who is being occupied by the simple act of wearing the original clothing. Her almost ethereal floral works, such as “I’ve Been Waiting for You Obi Wan” and “If Wishes Were Horses” flawlessly convey the way these garments and their meaning is perceived. According to Wiseman, they reflect themes of gender bias, corporate influence, and income inequality. But even without this knowledge, the lush and lovely fabric works subtly suggest how something that is essentially worn as armor – at least in the corporate and political world – can be turned inside out, restructured to become something that opens the heart rather than constricts it.

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Above, “I’ve Been Waiting Obi Wan”

Flowers are symbolic of, and often used to represent, peace, tranquility, love, and caring. They are natural. They are fragile but resilient, they are created not by man but by nature. In short, Wiseman is replacing that corporate armature, or rather turning it into, something purer, and ultimately more enduring. These artworks and what they symbolize may not look tough at first glance, but they are. They have survived deconstruction. They have survived being trapped within another form far less harmonious. And here they are.

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Above, “CFO”

Wiseman’s “CFO” continues a floral theme while retaining a construction analogous to – including a zippered fly – a feminized version of a suit.

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“Powerful” takes Wiseman’s work in a new direction. “The business suits are reduced to the crotch area: the fly. The suit sections are framed like portraits,” the artist relates. “They are isolated to the opening that accesses the genitals. The pieces vary in depth from flat to 4″.” She has also made these works interactive: viewers are invited to leave objects, including text or anything that seems appropriate in the opening, then zip the fly. “The closing event will include unzipping the flies, exposing the content,” Wiseman explains.

The inspiration for this work came from a government website, https://oversight.house.gov/subcommittee/full-committee/.

“I’ve been thinking about this work for quite a while…experimenting with how it takes shape, coming to understand it’s meaning and absorbing current events,” Wiseman says. Viewing photographs of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee, grouped together by political party inspired this step in her artistic process.

“The Republican section is 25 men, 24 white, and 1 woman. The Democratic section is much more reflective of the gender and racial diversity of the population,” she asserts. And all are clad in business suits.

Each aspect of the “Occupy Series,” including Powerful, began with a different sort of inspiration, a love of things handcrafted and decorative, and an attraction to fabric and pattern. This was the artistic fuel for her fire: “Coming of age in the counterculture of the 60s and 70s when social activism, feminism/gender politics and anti-consumerism were core values has been a major influence. I often combine my personal experience with domestic sensibilities and larger, current social issues,” she notes.

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Above, Wiseman’s rug 

The California-based artist has exhibited locally at Launch and LA Art Core among other galleries, and along with her work in fabric, has created evocative paintings, installations, murals, and glass paintings.

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Above, “Redacted,” from the artist’s Security Measures series.

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Above, Wiseman’s window painting in Petaluma, Calif.

With the “Occupy Series,” she has created something original, wonderful, and highly political – fabric-art that the mind and spirit can wear.

Don’t miss trying this one on!

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Above, the artist at work.

Shoebox Projects is located at 660 South Avenue 21 #3 in Los Angeles. For more information, visit https://shoeboxprojects.com/

  • Genie Davis; photos: courtesy of artist

Fertile Infertility: Eva Perez at the Neutra

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Eva Perez has created a profoundly beautiful show about a hot-button topic: fertility. The end result of six years of work, the 50 pieces that fill the Neutra Gallery in Fertile Infertility through February 12th exude wonder and loss, and give birth to an intimate self-portrait of the artist.

Her mixed media works give viewers a look at an unusually personal and taboo subject with delicacy, grace, and hard-won wisdom.

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The show, Perez says, is “informed by images of my own blastocyst embryos, photographed while undergoing fertility treatments.” The intrinsic beauty of the images afforded Perez the realization that “this work in spite of such personal content, needed to be shared to a larger audience.” She says that “Because art can only ask questions, my goal is to establish conversations with both women and men about issues that are relevant to the times we live in.”

Fertile Infertility does so with wit and grace; creating abstract and representational art that arrests the eye and inspires the spirit. While she was not able to establish a positive pregnancy, she did indeed establish that “in spite of my biological limitations as a creator of life, I am still a creator of ideas.”

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Perez works here as a sculptor, a painter, and a video artist. “Throughout my career I’ve explored multiple mediums. I love the plasticity of clay and the application of wax over canvas, but one of my favorite mediums is working with ink. Every single one of these mediums has been successful according to the piece and its intention,” she says, adding that she “will always be open to explore new mediums.”

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Her deeply moving video installation, “Do You Have Kids?” is told in dialog, taking on the shockingly personal question that seems to crop up in virtually any social interaction. Both humorous and painful, the film is all about getting pregnant – or not getting pregnant. Why the question is allowed but the subject considered unpalatable is one of the most poignant elements of the show, which deals with Perez’ own attempt to have a child, fertility and age, and what became for the artist an “obsession with biology.”

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A large number of works, whether 2-D or 3-D, are sculptural, such as “Silver Lining,” a rich, voluptuous and textured work created with aluminum leaf. The shiny silver that creates a jagged line down the center of the piece is like an electric shock – it defines the context of the work, which features a repeated pattern of multiple human eggs. Perez describes the work as a “part of the journey. There is always something beyond the suffering of the moment,” she relates. “Frozen Eggs 2″ turns to gold leaf over acrylic paint on paper. With this piece, and the others in the “Frozen Eggs” series, the artist offers a whimsical prize, a golden egg, a stand-in for a fertile egg, a roulette wheel for the gestation of life.

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Working in wax and resin, Perez’s “Petri Dish” series and her “Eggs with Babies” series both feature glowingly alien attempts to create a new life. “Material literally informs a piece for me,” Perez explains. “I’m a sculptor and I love these materials. I was working in a different way with resin.”

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Working simply with ink on paper, the artist’s “Ovum #4″ resembles a mandala of sorts, hypnotic and kaleidoscopic.

From plastic babies to cloth eggs, the works on exhibit are otherworldly and magical. Perez has created a mysterious and fascinating journey of gestation as if it were a universe frequently observed but rarely explored.

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According to Perez, “This project proposes to function as a vehicle for dialogue with viewers and among viewers…expanding awareness of the complexities surrounding this topic, which even in this day and age is still considered a taboo.” The artist feels that the most salient and important aspect of her work is the conversation generated by it.

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Certainly at last Saturday’s opening, Perez’ work created a buzz as to its beauty and its topic.

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Guests listened to live musical performances and noshed on ceviche and chips, but the art itself provoked a thoughtful contemplation. What we create, what we bear is our legacy, whether it is great art or the beauty of a newborn child.

Perez got started as an artist from an early age, when she was exposed to drawing, painting, dance, and music. “Ever since I can remember I have always been engaged in the art making process. My mom encouraged us to be creative and use our imagination. As I was growing up, I studied ballet.” With movement and flow such a strong element of Fertile Infertility, Perez’ dance background makes perfect sense.

Later, she studied sculpture with Mexican artist Francisco de Leon. She became de Leon’s apprentice, and studied at The National School of Painting, Sculpting and Printmaking of The Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City.

From her early work until now, the artist’s work has changed dramatically, she attests. “I was trained as a sculptor, my work used to be mainly three-dimensional figurative abstract sculptures. As I grew in my practice, I’ve learned that art does not have to be linear but materials follow the form and function in support of ideas.”

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Perez’ current works incorporate all previous aspects of her art from drawing, sculpture, and painting, and both the figurative and abstract approaches. “My latest artwork is not bound by past uses of materials but it’s taking a multi-disciplinary approach in support of one cohesive and central idea.”

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Explore Perez’ unique world and provocative vision at The Neutra Gallery through February 12th. An artist’s talk will be presented at 5 p.m. The Neutra is located at 2379 Glendale Blvd. in Silver Lake.

  • Genie Davis; All Photos: Jack Burke

Make Believe: Kathy Curtis Cahill at Keystone Gallery

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Closing this weekend, Kathy Curtis Cahill’s Make Believe, now at Keystone Gallery, is a potent and poignant look at childhood and the full-on miracle of imagination.

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Using dolls as a stand-in for children, these believably life-like, charming subjects dress up as cowgirls, super heroes, a princess, a doctor and nurse. Whether evoking Cahill’s own childhood or that of her son, these doll children are vulnerable, adorable, and haunting. There is magic afoot: within a child’s creative play, and within the creations Cahill herself presents.

Cahill’s earlier exhibition, Memories and Demons, approached a darker side of childhood, dealing with trauma and abuse, and the ways in which children can be all too easily scarred.

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The delicate and wondrous world of childhood presented here serves, Cahill notes, as a “direct counterpoint” to her earlier series. “These works are all about the joy, the amazing freedom of the world children have before age five.”

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The artist also notes that children may also use their imagination and play to overcome trauma or escape from it, much as she and her brother did as children. A tomboy, Cahill and her brother together played with toy soldiers, shot BB guns, and roamed through the woods. Their own fantasy world provided them comfort and pleasure.

Cahill’s personal childhood play is one thread of the exhibit; a second illuminates the play of her son. Taken together, this series touches the heart with its evocation of childhood pleasures and escapes, and in a gentle way also reveals the touching vulnerability of children’s imagination. Dreams are delicate; they are beautifully wrought fantasies should not be disturbed. There is respect as well as whimsy in her portrayals.

Created primarily outdoors near Cahill’s northern California studio – she also maintains a studio in Los Angeles – the works are shot using natural lighting, and are designed to be as ‘real’ as possible. “I’ve done fake,” she laughs, referencing her past as an Emmy-winning set decorator.

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She casts her dolls carefully, and her settings. Some settings take longer to create, as in “Tea Party,” where Cahill changed settings numerous times before ending up in her own home, and changing the color of the background curtains.

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Others seemed to find themselves, as in “Grr!” where a small boy in the woods, clad in a bear costume, pays homage to Cahill’s own son’s childhood and playfulness.

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Along with her photographs, Cahill features a large scale installation of her doll and stuffed animal subjects as well as other toy props used in her works. She choose to include these actual subjects to inform viewers about exactly what she worked with, as well as to make them more “real” to viewers. She says that for children, dolls and stuffed toys come alive. “They’re the first things we identify after our mothers,” she says.

The artist finds them joyous, and sees them as individuals, her own artistic children.

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The entire exhibition space itself serves as a unifying installation, with living room furnishings from the 1950s and 1970s representing the environments in which Cahill and her brother played and those in which her own child played. The photographic works are hung as if they were were family photos, furthering the illusion that these dolls are as real as the children who played with them and believed in them.

If you’ve ever read The Velveteen Rabbit,  the story of a toy rabbit that becomes real through the love of a child, or believed yourself in beloved toys “becoming real,” Cahill’s work will heighten that belief.

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There’s a lovely intimacy to these pieces, a beautiful, dream-like quality.  Just as children play dress-up and become for a time what they imagine they can be, Cahill allows viewers to play along, to see the world with fresh eyes, to see what they can still, even as adults, make “real.”

Cahill’s Keystone Gallery closing will be February 5th. The gallery is located at 338 S. Ave 16, Los Angeles.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke and provided by the artist