Memories and Demons – Kathy Curtis Cahill

photos by Jack Burke

 

Photo by Jack Burke
Photo by Jack Burke

Mysterious, wonderful, frightening, inspiring. That’s the childhood world that photographer Kathy Curtis Cahill presents in her riveting exhibition “Memories and Demons” at the Artists Corner Gallery in Hollywood.

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The photographs Cahill creates feature eerily realistic antique dolls, positioned so that they, like her luminous photography, come startlingly alive. Cahill describes the pieces as inspired by her childhood. “It was difficult,” she relates. “My parents were blue collar workers, and we moved around a lot. My father gambled and drank, and abused my mother. My brother was boarded out. I’ve spent a long time getting over being angry.”

But Cahill’s work offers her closure, and the viewer an insight into a world of childhood both vivid and insightful. “This project was cathartic for me,” Cahill says. “My parents divorced, but ended up back together, in a toxic relationship they couldn’t live without.”

What Cahill can’t live without is her art. “I’ve always been involved in art and photography. I took  photography classes. I worked in film. I have been inspired greatly by Diane Arbus and Sally Mann.” She started “Memories and Demons” utilizing another long time passion, collecting antique dolls. The dolls are her subjects, and their haunting expressions and positions are profoundly alive. ow does she create her dolls’ life-like positions?  “Through trial and error,” Cahill attests. “I use paint cans, sticks, props. I work with them, and create an environment for them.”

Cahill has been creating her unique vision for just under a year. She works without assistance, using a variety of natural light sources in many pieces. “My ‘Please Help’ was shot by porch light,” she explains.  The naturalism of her settings, lighting, and interactions contributes to the surreal/real style of her work.

The poignant images show loss, longing, fear, and wonder, all in a very personal way that grabs the viewer by the heart and throat. Her first piece, “Small Comforts” was directly inspired by her mother. “I make these pieces for all the children who were traumatized, for children who are still affected as adults by what has happened in the past. I tell stories in images that children may not be able to tell in words.”

To learn more about Cahill’s dynamic work, visit Artist’s Corner, located at 6585 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. A closing night reception and artist’s talk takes place Saturday, August 8th from  7 to 10 pm and should fall in your “do not miss” category.

 All Photos for this article by Jack Burke

Far from Small: Dwora Fried’s Miniature Tableaux

Dwora Fried may create miniature tableaux, but her subjects and themes are far from small. Working with tiny figures and photographs to create spectacularly detailed worlds inside glass-topped wood boxes, Fried suggests rather than specifies her narratives. Then, in accompanying texts, she lets viewers see that these boxes contain searing representations of voyeurism, spectacle, and entrapment. Fried describes these pieces as depicting “a collection of climates, where even the most liberated are confined.” Her “Living Imprint” boxes depict the biographical stories of ten different survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania, a country where ninety-five percent of the pre-WWII Jewish population – some 240,000 residents – were annihilated. Fried was one of three artists commissioned to memorialize the survivors.

Stunningly detailed, each box not only evokes a story but a visceral response in the viewer, who is pulled into the small, intricate world a box contains. Fried finds many of the small furnishings used in her boxes in flea markets around Europe, with many pieces hailing from the 1940s and 1950s.

Her box “Ai Weiwei” is both a tribute to the Chinese artist and activist and a depiction of the constraints that the repressive Chinese regime has levied on him, through house arrest, jailing, and the destruction of his studio. The “Blue Vanity” in the box of that title is a very feminine doll house furnishing, juxtaposed with a collection of black and white photos of female actresses, and a man in a blue sweater watching a Western on a television. What has become of the owner of that vanity? The sadness and loss in the piece is palpable. Fried’s “Anne Frank” includes a miniature kitchen, a well-known photo of Frank, and books dropped before a refrigerator. A baby doll and a replica statue memorializing Frank make the piece both reverential and haunting. Fried expresses the fact that Frank is memorialized now, a lighting rod evocation of the Holocaust, but often not remembered as the vulnerable child she was as well.

A native Austrian, Fried is an international traveler, mother of four children, and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.“I keep re-creating the feeling of what it was like growing up,” the artist says, “the box captures the claustrophobic feeling a painting can’t.” Her layered collages and complex boxes tell stories with sweeping implications, stories that through their profound meaning to the artist, have the ability to create a ripple effect of deep connection with the viewer.

Born in Vienna and now residing in Los Angeles, Fried has exhibited worldwide, including solo exhibits last year in Venice, Italy at the Museo Ebraico and Vienna, Austria. Fried has recently shown work at Chicago’s Woman Made Gallery, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and at SPARC Gallery in Venice California.

She currently has five pieces in the permanent collection at the Museum Startgalerie Artotheck in Vienna, and has exhibited at the Women’s Museum of California in San Diego, as well as at Viridian Artists in New York. The artist has also shown in numerous group exhibitions at the Los Angeles Art Association where she is a member.

From Los Angeles to London to Ojai, Fried takes her evocative and startling miniatures to a wide variety of locations where they paint a very big picture indeed.

Chenhung Chen – The Power of Lines

What’s on the line in artist Chenhung Chen’s buoyant, powerful art? Line itself. Chen focuses her art on the formation of line in drawing, Chinese calligraphy, and American Abstract Expressionism, filling her own pieces – drawings, sculptures, and 3D installations – with the yin and yang of harmony and dissonance.

Delicate and ephemeral are not often the words associated with recycled materials such as copper wires and components, but Chen’s work provides both. In pieces like “Moment to Moment,” and “Water” exhibited at the Studio Channel Islands Art Center, Chen’s all-important lines are curved, willowy, tangled, and buoyant. Their representational shapes are less important than the feeling they evoke, or as Chen puts it “the Formless is the quintessential subject of my art, but we only know it through form.”

A good example of this wonderfully formless form is Chen’s 3-D sculpture “Constellations.” The piece has the qualities of an amorphous jelly fish and the meshed patterns of a sky full of stars and the universe itself. The copper wire she uses becomes a living entity, each fine, entwined element joined to another like the stars in the sky. There is both a vastness and an intimacy in Chen’s work; a sense of motion in the swirls, whorls, and coils. Her “How do you spin your yarn?” are eight separate “yarn” balls crafted from wire, each one seeming to swirl out of itself, ready to be born as something else – perhaps something as prosaic as a sweater, or perhaps a life force ready to animate.

Chen says “I appreciate the linear qualities inherent in nature,” and in her work, line appears to be the starting point for life and energy. She describes her work as being “about the driving force for inner fulfilment, balance, meditative process…and experiencing the inner power.” To the viewer, it’s the dichotomy between belonging and aloneness, or as Chen puts it, between “‘wholeness’ or ‘the self,’” a twin force which pulses through her visually haunting pieces.

Chen crafts much of her work from wire and wood, plastic casing, paper, paper clips and staples. Her goal is “to make sense of objects’ function or contrast them” in a vital way. She works with hard technological elements such as wire and components, yet manages to transform these objects into something fluid and almost liquid.

Now living and working in Los Angeles, Chen was born in Beigang, Taiwan, and received degrees from the Chinese Cultural University, and the School of Visual Arts in New York City where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree. A world traveler and non-profit volunteer, thematically Chen’s art focuses on a sense of external shape, force, and inner existence. Her internationally cultural background may influence the ideas of change and fluidity so redolent in the works she creates. In short: if one line leads to the next, that line is both tangled and filled with twists and turns in Chen’s work, a weaving of cultures and emotions, the stuff of life itself.

The artist will be participating in 2015 Annual Benefit Auction for the Los Angeles Art Association on August 1st, held at Gallery 825, in Los Angeles. This Summer National Juried Exhibition, is juried by Nancy Meyer, of the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, in Novato, Calif.

The artist recently participated in Art of Our Century at the Woodbury Art Museum at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah, featuring the work of western regional artists.
Other recent exhibitions included her Blackboard Gallery Studio Channel Islands Art Center solo exhibition, Dancing with the Formless; Kuwento Engkuwentro: Angeleno Folklore, Legends and Sidewalk Stories, held at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument; the 53rd International Exhibition, at the San Diego Art Institute, San Diego; and Fusion, held at the Arc On-Line Gallery in San Francisco. As a part of a wide variety of group exhibitions in New York, California, and abroad, Chen’s art has been showcased in dozens of venues since beginning her career.

Chen describes her art overall as “about harmony and dissonance, peace and chaos, the beautiful and the grotesque, the subtle and the powerful. It’s also about the driving force for inner fulfillment, balance, meditative process, human internal structures, the transitional human condition, and experiencing the inner power.”

She began her art career formally in 2010, and attests to the fact that the desire to create art “must come from within. If one wants to be an artist, it’s because he or she needs to be one.”

An admirer of Cy Twombly’s paintings, Chen began painting in 3rd grade . Trained as a painter, she now works in diverse materials, and enjoys the challenge of working three-dimensionally, finding inspiration through a process of internal discovery, meditation, and life experience.

Currently working on her “Entelechy” series of sculptures, Chen recently moved into the Brewery Arts Complex in Los Angeles, where along with her own work and involvement in the art community, she enjoys cooking, gardening, and family time. And finding lines, lines, everywhere a line.

Susan Amorde

 

Installation photos by SDK Photo & Design
From riveting figures to figurative baggage, sculptor and installation artist Susan Amorde explores the intersection of the human body and human emotions. Her figures evoke the wonder, majesty, and humor that make up life itself; her installations evoke the need for change and our reluctance, as a species, to let go.

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Amorde works primarily from live models with her figurative work, creating her sculptures in terra cotta clay, hydrocal, bronze, wax, and mixed media. Sculptures such as “Leaning Left Bookend or Not” and “Leaning Right Bookend or Not,” are supple bronze figures that seem to be melting into the thick bronze blocks on which they’re reclining. Long-legged and curvy, these women evoke the longing to move, and the comfort of remaining in place. Also reclining is the full color vibrancy of “Maura,” a hydrocal figure on a terry-cloth pool raft. Maura is a big bodied, jubilant nude, smiling at an unseen sun, amusing us with her dominance and joy, a whimsical figure with an edge. Mixing hydrocal and bronze on a marble base, “Shadow (The King)” is a stately bust of a young man wearing a crown. Study him to see his vulnerability, arrogance, longing; a shadow of the youth and power that will fade in time is etched in his eyes. “My practice explores the human form and emotions as we navigate life’s challenges,” Amorde says. Her expressionist style is beautifully suited for this twinned exploration.

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More surreal, Amorde’s series “Baggage” is the artist’s “personal examination of the universal themes associated with how what we carry around impacts our identity.” Using mixed media to explore both the literal and metaphorical meaning of baggage, the artist works from the premise that everyone carries some baggage with them in life, whether figurative, metaphysical, or emotional. Amorde “investigates how such baggage is perceived, how it feels, and how it impacts the living of our lives.” Integrating her sculptures with suitcases, suitcase parts, and other mixed media and found objects, many of her installations are large scale, as sweeping in scope as the baggage that we all carry in our lives. Amorde has plans for future works in this series that will include found objects, audio and video.

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Like her subjects, Amorde doesn’t travel light. Each piece in the “Baggage” series is quite literally freighted with meaning. “Zebra and the Red Pillow,” a mixed media and polychromed ceramic work, features a dazzlingly white and zebra-striped woman with haunted eyes lying on a red pillow which is positioned inside a zebra-striped travel bag.

She’s made her bed and isn’t sure she wants to lie in it, and is certainly not ready for the lid to close. Her long, pale, striped body is a part of that bag and she an evocation of it, and the life she’s made for herself. “Untitled (Baggage Station)” is a massive 7 ft. by 7 ft. mixed media installation of a variety of suitcases positioned on wooden storage shelves. The shapes and positioning of the suitcases – in all sizes and colors – reminds the viewer of people waiting to travel, waiting to perhaps shed their outer skin or inner problems and pass on without the baggage both imply.

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“Wounded Baggage” joins a dart board studded with bloody arrows to the surface of an aging green suitcase. Both immediately accessible and defiantly surreal, the piece calls the viewer to understand, and challenges the idea of literally carrying on in the face of adversity. The artist seems to posit the question – just what are we carrying on?

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Both Amorde’s figures and installation art have a mystical quality that belies the intensity of her expression. “I am drawn to sculpting the human form in narratives about challenges and mysteries in life. Equally appealing to me are portraits and studies of the figure that are celebrations of individuality. For me, sculpting people and their ‘baggage’ provides me with an endlessly fascinating journey of creative expression,” Amorde says.

The Los Angeles based artist was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in LA, and has a BFA from California State University, Long Beach. She recently exhibited at the Zero Down exhibition at 1019 West in Inglewood, the DAB Art Ventura at the HUD Gallery in Ventura, Calif. and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) in Los Angeles’ Barnsdall Park. Exhibiting since 2000, Amorde has shown at Gallery 825, the TAG Gallery in Santa Monica, Gallery Godo in Glendale, and at the Getty Underground at the J. Paul Getty Museum/Villa in Malibu, Calif. among many other galleries and museums.

Amorde lives in Los Angeles and maintains a studio in Inglewood, Calif. Exhibiting both locally and nationally, she’s on the web at www.susanamorde.com.