Questioning Signs of Authority With Oli Watt

Modern day Dadaist Oli Watt is known for his comments on the current questioning many millennials have regarding the value of a college education by creating sculptural and 2D rendered parodies that criticize the establishment. In the exhibition Sensible Disobedience at Charlotte Street’s La Esquina Gallery (March 10th – April 22nd), Watt took a cynical stance on how accreditation and credentials are viewed in present day society by creating a facade that questions the contemporary system of academia.

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Degree, 2006, Oli Watt. Woodcut print of college degree 21 in. x 25 in. Image by E.G. Schempf

Watts’ cynicism is proven by the large number of millennials who come out of high school confused about their next decision. In 2017, we’re placing college graduates on a fictional pedestal, valuing them more than people in traditional work fields, such as manual labor.  With the diploma creating a class-based barrier, it makes it harder for people of lower economic status to obtain a degree, making it harder for them to obtain higher-paying jobs. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, the average cost of a bachelor’s degree in the United States is $127,000.  With a large number of people in the workforce having degrees, employers start looking past the degree for validation.  In making a fictitious diploma, Watt comments on the function of the authoritative document, making the viewer aware of its’ objective purpose, as well as the task given to this paper by society’s pre-conceived notion of importance.        

Watts’ cartoon-like drawing used in Degree blurs the line between levity and seriousness. He recreates widely recognized forms of success and pokes fun at them, making audiences question why they are even considered measurable forms of success to begin with.  Dear Prudence is a series of traffic signs displayed throughout the gallery. Their unusual placement calls attention to their sheer quantity, starting a conversation about why we obey them in one setting and not another.  Watts shows interest in making people question whether or not they are handling his content as fictitious or subliminal in this work by using a common object such as a traffic barricade but shrinking it down to an unrealistic level where it doesn’t carry out its intended purpose, and instead functions as a guide for the viewers to move through the gallery.  The small replicas serve as a reminder of one instance where we face subordination to material objects on an everyday basis, and how objects possess a different kind of authority in their numbers.  The traffic signs shift viewers’ mindset from believing they are freely moving, independent beings before they come into the gallery into realizing that they have limitations imposed on them on a daily basis which had before been unknown to them.  

Oli Watt, Dear Prudence, 2001 Acrylic ink on polystyrene Dimensions Variable & Business Cards, 1998-present Offset prints 9 in. x 12 in. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Oli Watt, Dear Prudence, 2001 Acrylic ink on polystyrene Dimensions Variable & Business Cards, 1998-present Offset prints 9 in. x 12 in. Photo by E.G. Schempf

Watt’s work calls upon viewers to recognize that symbols that command us and present a layer of control over us in every aspect of society, but calls specific attention to education. His work questions the nature of why we choose to obey and honor material things for their symbolic aspects. Oli Watt draws out purpose from common objects and makes a viewer question why we choose to revolve our lives around something as ordinary as a piece of paper or an orange traffic barrier, and makes audiences question the authority that inanimate objects seem to possess over society.  A piece of paper should not dictate your success or function to further the wage gap between classes, as assigning this authority to a mundane object takes the power away from the recipient.  Placing this level of value in education creates distinct barriers between potential employers and people of lower classes who cannot afford a higher level education, despite their capacity for hard work and dedication.  Societal barriers are starting to become unnecessary due to the pace at which our culture is spiraling downwards. Because of this freefall, all that these barriers accomplish is further dividing the socio-economic classes, instead of being used to create friendly standards for competition in the work force.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        




Jordan Kasey’s Whimsical “Exoplanet” at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

Jordan Kasey exhibits six new large-scale paintings, encircling and filling the space with visions of whimsy. “Exoplanet,” at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery in Soho, permits the viewer to enter Kasey’s paintings, which seem extracted from a different world. The light within each painting emulates unnatural tones and shadows that exist under a source of light unfamiliar in terms of planetary sensibility.

Installation Image of Jordan Kasey's Exoplanet courtesy of Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

Installation Image of Jordan Kasey’s Exoplanet courtesy of the Artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

A white light illuminates a poolside, crisply accentuating a shadow cast on a beige pavement by a red hand; a red and turquoise light saturate a dinner table, the view downward on only one guest, their skin and hair also saturated by the light. With gray dominating much of the canvas space, as an object casts a colored shadow, the stark lighting and brilliance surrounding leads me to imagine the rest of the environment in chrome and under a scintillating white sun. Yet, I find something uncanny about these places. What is this alternate reality and why are we going there? Regardless, in an in-between place, I feel at a distance from the world I’m physically in and still separate from the world Kasey depicts.

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Installation Image of Jordan Kasey’s Exoplanet courtesy of the Artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

The paintings’ edges barely contain entire bodies, entering the picture plane showing all but the right or left side of the body, no head, half of a face, or only a face, whose massiveness arrest me and leave me feeling almost miniature. The scale of these figures and the canvas push me farther out of reality into a realm where I encounter scenes that resonate with real life, but I must have only seen them in a dream. A single paint stroke captures the realness of a toenail or a blade of grass, but also impossibly molds a head without any concavity for an eyeball to be set in, sitting instead like stickers on a flat surface. The dimensionality of the objects that populate the scenes render these flat planes into dense dreamscapes, where impossibly lit figures and structures depict everyday activities to be more complex and dense; these engorged moments mirroring memories of dreams.




Crushed/Optimistic: Photography, Poetry, & Brandon Forrest Frederick

Brandon Forrest Frederick is an artist / organizer / educator / person that I happen to know very well. We have worked side by side for four years as members of Archive Collective, and both pursued our photographic educations in the same institution (four years apart). This shared experience means that neither of us can navigate Brandon’s work without first considering its relationship to the functions, the implicit qualities, and often, the inadequacies of photographs. Seeing these things as a driving force, rather than a limitation, enables Brandon to meet the viewer between playfulness and subversion in an exhibition like Sensible Disobedience.

The following writing was made in response to Brandon’s practice and efforts to explore new modes for working through his ideas, as well as my own desire to bring this level of intuition and experimentation to art writing.

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Image of Brandon Forrest Frederick’s work courtesy of the artist.

 

Photographs like

 

an aphorism

a truth

of everyday objects

that we all know

 

aim to

seem

legible

transparent

but not without

 

a certain poetry

in reflection

that comes from empathy

 

not declarative

or assertive

but a clear question

 

of ‘the everyday’

that feels elevating.

 

Faith placed

in observation

to share

to take with you

and consider

in daily interaction

 

a ‘something out of nothing’

like that cliché

of vernacular photographs.

 

Beauty in and of the everyday.

 

Transforming like

through the lens

patterns

conditioned

decisions made

for photography

 

between us

the photograph

and the outside world.

 

Process like

an overly complicated means to an end

calling attention to what confounds

(see Rube Goldberg)

presented clearly

generously

 

posits

that perhaps art can be simple

but our ideas

and truths

are more often

somewhere in the mess.

 

Humor like

Science Fiction

a good way to talk about tough things

and tough times

with the ability

to stay light.

 

A rigid object

crushed

a signifier of culture

shared alien

collapsed space

stuffed soft

crumpled again

our combined laughters

are first ones of

Michelob Ultra

of consumption

and second of

extravagant photographic failures

and wit.

 

A flaccid pillow

a more obvious joke

not dumb

just

generous

evolving from

photographs

avoids only partially

some underlying sadness

of the still image.

 

New work

sewn

cut

lit from within

with the same punchline

louder

 

a new gift

an archeological dig

through American habits

 

not the American spaces

we learned about

in Photo History.

 

Teaching and making

as learning

 

a new education

and new ideas

or shared ideas

and new vehicles.

 

Growth

guided by the process

 

not by what we already know.


SENSIBLE DISOBEDIENCE: DISRUPTING CULTURAL SIGNIFIERS IN A NEOLIBERAL AGE was curated by Lynnette Miranda -Charlotte Street’s Curator-in-Residence- and is up through April 22nd 2017 at La Esquina (1000 W. 25TH STREET KC, MO 64108)




An Archive of Crit Night with Archive Collective

Archive Collective hosted their fifth Crit Night at Kiosk Gallery on Thursday September 3, 2015. This Crit Night was for the artists to get feedback on works in progress and in this way, see what is working and what needs to be reassessed. There was a larger turnout than was expected, making for a slightly crowded and very warm environment. Despite that, there was a good atmosphere geared towards critique within the framework of photography.

Guest Moderator Melaney Mitchell image courtesy of Archive Collective

Guest Moderator Melaney Mitchell in front of the work of Kat Richards at Kiosk Gallery image courtesy of Archive Collective

Kat Richards, printmaking senior at KU, presented her work as primarily dealing with the drag culture, virtual presence, and identity. Although there were some elements that were working, there was much room for improvement. One issue with the photographs was the language she used to describe her concepts. Many of the words she used were problematic towards the queer/ drag community. Not only was she using models who are not part of drag culture, but she also put herself in drag, using it as a costume. Participants in the critique thought Richards was not taking into consideration the potentially negative implications of this type of portrayal. Her lack of research in conceptual approach ended up opening different discussions she was not prepared to address. This was a large topic of discussion for the overall body of work.

Richards use of photography -in technical terms-was problematic.  the works presented were decent, well lit, subjects in focus, but the glossy finish on the prints reflected the overhead lights. The colors she chose for the background of the two gender centric studio portraits – pink and blue – were an obvious choice and did nothing to for her already questionable concepts. To be fair, she was attempting to achieve the cinematic. The audience discussion was largely about problematic ideas on gender identity. One of the attendees, Donut, commented on how Richards’ idea of what the work was about did not come across because of how directly they mimicked aesthetics the queer community. It seemed to be that Richards had not taken into consideration many of the points that were brought up so hopefully this critique works to her favor moving forward.

This critique could have been better balanced between the two bodies of work and spent more time discussing the photographs that dealt more with value within the virtual realm and strange object phenomena. These seemed to have potential for further exploration. Her use of color and the objects within her constructed spaces alluded internet culture and virtual space and presence. Whether intentional or not, certain objects she included were referential to American culture as well and I felt that could compliment her other interests well also, given she researches more in depth.

Emma Provin and Critique Night guests image courtesy of Archive Collective

Emma Porvin and Critique Night guests at Kiosk Gallery image courtesy of Archive Collective

Second to present was Emma Provin, who was projecting a short film. Her piece, Agnes Cannibale, featured Agnes, whose body is having a negative reaction to the human meat she has been ingesting. Strong female lead characters are not often seen within the context of the horror genre. Provin managed to use this atypical narrative through execution.  The film was shot and edited handsomely; the framing throughout the entire length was consistent in its intentions and correlated nicely with the overall concept. The tension built by not seeing Agnes’ face, and instead just her hand gestures, kept the audience engaged with the character. At the end, this payed off by finally revealing an entirely different dimension of self mutilation. Overall, the environment Provin created was appealing and counterbalanced the grotesque implications.

The conversation revolved a lot around the main character and her persona. The one point that was discussed, a bit too extensively, was the sound throughout the film. Fellow Crit Night participants felt the sound was too low, even when scenes were functioning properly silent. The music also surfaced comments on the time setting and the contrast between the chosen aesthetics of Agnes’ old fashioned space and her modern objects. This played into the conversation surrounding her persona and the way in which the juxtaposing of these two served as a way to confirm assumptions made by the audience about the character.

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Crit Night Group discussing the work of Dustin Downey at Kiosk Gallery image courtesy of Archive Collective

Last to present work was Dustin Downey. Primarily an installation based artist, Downey showed photographs that were meant to serve as documentation of installations. His work explores the relationship between light, space, and form. However, instead of providing the viewer with simulation of those installations they left much to be uncovered. That physical presence of light in space was unfortunately not translated through the photographs. Many of the prints were too dark, abstracting the space from the image entirely. Downey’s documentation of his installations seemed to be referencing Dan Flavin’s fluorescent works in the way the light source is supposed interact with the space. Flavin’s documentation of his installations can double as artwork themselves because they consider the medium they are being translated through instead of simulating the experience. Downey’s work did not evoke any sense of presence or spatial depth instead the contrast ratio of the photos made the spaces ambiguous.

By the end of the night, all three artists were able to hear the reception of their work from a small but diverse audience. Each artist received constructive suggestions for ways to improve or reevaluate the directions of their work.

 




Surprise Ceramics in A Tisket A Tasket at Front/Space

A Tisket A Tasket at Front/Space image by Timothy Amundson

Kansas City is about to host National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) a conference that works to engage a community for ceramic art, teaching, and learning.  NCECA is a convergence of the gatekeepers in the national ceramics community. These exhibitions were priming the showcase of local and national artists working within the confines of fine art ceramics, with some breaking those rules completely. As a medium, ceramics has had a tough time with this distinction between fine art and craft. Some relegate the medium entirely to an idea of elaborate plates, cups, or beautiful decorative objects but nothing more. This of course is a myopic viewpoint that doesn’t usually allow for alternative forms to be explored. A Tisket A Tasket is one exploration of how contemporary ceramics can confront this conceptual void and pull us towards a larger conversation about the way we interact with contemporary art as a whole.

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A Tisket A Tasket at Front/Space image by Timothy Amundson

Front/Space is a very small two-hundred-square-foot storefront on the west end of the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District. Bringing the street line in through its massive windows, the audience was seen exploring from both sides of the glass. A Tisket A Tasket filled every corner of the space with variably sized crudely taped rectangular cardboard boxes, these nod to the traditional display of ceramic objects, on perfectly crafted white pedestals. The work itself by artists Charity Thackston and Julia Six was a combination of both ceramic, and found objects that created a sampling and repeat of what would be found in a teenage girl’s bedroom. Ceramic alarm clocks grounded space on the pedestals also taken up by painted books, altered found postcards, a peppering of ceramic White-Out bottles, mixtapes, and miniature high school composition notebooks. In the moment of First Friday, I noticed there were already gallery patrons touching the work on the pedestal, normally ceramic work may serve as functional but never touched in a gallery. This exhibition only had four instructions for the viewer; ‘look, listen, pay attention, and choose!’ written on the gallery walls.

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A Tisket A Tasket at Front/Space image by Timothy Amundson

When I walked into the exhibition space Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time was echoing over a bluetooth speaker set in the ceiling. I kept exploring the show, opening the notebooks scattered about the floor and pedestals, picking up the multicolored ceramic mixtapes and feeling a little bummed about how these non functional objects reference a media format now starting to calcify in history. Inside of each notebooks were lyrics to cheesy pop love songs ranging in span from the mid 80s to the early 2000’s. The mixtapes and laminated “Blookbuster” video membership cards pushed a humorous failure of our desire to return to the past forward. Exploring the space became like a trip to the old corner video store; pulling titles that seem interesting and reading the backstory to see if it’s worth the watch.

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A Tisket A Tasket at Front/Space image by Timothy Amundson

The importance of A Tisket A Tasket  is the work’s slow read. The objects’ lingering irony may raise the question “why ceramics” but it is this time consuming crafting which allows for the artists’ riff on the status quo of the medium and its continual sobriety to occur. I took my time with objects in the show, in humor thinking how important their function was to us not long ago. It is this controlled slowness of observation with the work that put us back in touch with the slower speed and moment in life we crave.The time in which White-Out was CTRL + Z, alarm clocks were separate from phones, and our inner thoughts or desires were retained on paper notebooks or postcards rather than Facebook timelines. These ceramic pieces by Charity Thackston and Julia Six functioned as takeaways for the audience attending the exhibition, a physical thing rather than a photograph. These found objects that melded with the ceramic work were the guides for the viewer. A new narrative is created each time a composition book is open or any time a book title is read. The importance of read and the slowness of action in A Tisket A Tasket created a new playing field for ceramic objects to exist within.




50/50’s Co-Host: Following Planted with an Unexpected Payoff

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On Instagram, scrolling down the timeline of 50/50 – a new alternative gallery built out of two shipping containers – I can follow each step of planning, construction, and studio visits through the artists that run the space. From adding insulation to graphic design decisions, hybrid artist-curators Cambria Potter and Hannah Lodwick, are pictured in these minimal tastes of progress. This transparency has allowed 50/50’s audience to build more than a year’s worth of anticipation for the arrival of their first exhibition, Co-Host.

The lengthy amount of construction photos showcase the sheer labor of building the space located in the West Bottoms just around the street from fellow alternative space Plug Projects and commercial galleries Haw Contemporary and Bill Brady. What stuck out on Instagram were images of studio visits with Kansas City based print and multimedia artist, Bobby Howsare, that planted a seed of expectation. Howsare is known for his pictured prints that play with optical illusions, moire patterns, and dynamic CMYK color phenomena. Construction documentation flowed beautifully next to this work. Because of the particular curation of 50/50s online Instagram space, I planned to encounter a completely different show dominated by Howsare’s work and its play on the newly constructed space’s architectural elements.

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Entering Co-Host it was Kristin Walsh – the visiting New York based new media artist and sculptor – who commanded the space with her installation. Walsh’s work is clean, sharp, and dynamic. Digital images that looked like a hybrid of Nintendo 64-style polygon environments and Google Street View – not far off in subject matter from curator Lodwick’s own studio practice – were projected on mirrored objects. Each of these cut at sharp angles reflecting the game-like images being projected, allowing for the work to refract the light and create other shimmering phenomena along the walls and ceiling.

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Rather than showing prints, Howsare showcased an installation based project utilizing analog dual projection film which viewers could see converging through a mirror at one point in the gallery. This projector-heavy show in a small space seemed to create an unintentional division between the two containers. Howsare’s installation felt stark in difference to Walsh’s work from color palette to spacial considerations, which made it hard not to wonder if his print-based work would’ve created a more dynamic conversation. Within the two-shipping-container-sized space any difference can easily become stark. Walsh created expansion and Howsare created compression. Maybe Walsh’s work not being previewed on Instagram allowed me to be surprised by lack of expectations, but I am anticipating even more out of the next two person show at 50/50.

 




Why Are We Just Standing Here? Dean Levin at Bill Brady KC.

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Bill Brady KC is a brightly lit white cube that looks like it was taken right from New York and tucked into Kansas City’s West Bottoms. This spatial frame allows for a close inspection of monumental artworks. Dean Levin’s exhibition features human-sized rectangular steel cages with offset rows filling the space not already taken by the gallery’s two main columns. Following those on the stark white walls are black semi-circular paintings hung at the eyeline which don’t demand that you get closer. His paint lies flat and dead along the stretched canvas. The work echos minimalism in a way that is underwhelming. Viewers stand like at a middle school dance between the walls of the austere space and the work that increased the cold presence.

Almost formulaic in nature, the work stays rooted in being as reductive as possible to avoid engaging with any sort of cultural narrative. Levin’s exhibition will be photographed beautifully and look great as an ad in ArtForum, and it seems as though that is as far as it needs to go. Apolitical work is incredibly appealing to the Patrick Bateman-esque art collectors of the world. Just like a logo-coated handbag, it takes pride in the surface level.  Levin’s work is emotionally detached and will continue to find its place on the opposite side of the wall from the audience.




Short Review: All Met new work by Chris Daharsh

There was an air of optimism as I arrived at MCC Longview Cultural Arts Center to view ALL MET by Chris Daharsh. The stout rectangular building with a wall of windows welcomed the October sunshine. Inside, the gallery had been opened up to make room for a circular stage lined by three large structures resembling canvas stretcher bars. The two in the back of the gallery were faced with plywood to create a solid surface, while the one in front of the entrance was only half enclosed to create a viewfinder for the exhibition behind it. The back left stretcher, and the solid half of the front stretcher had vinyl prints mounted to them. Within the constraints of the ring stood four statuesque performers displayed on low lying pedestals, their props nearby on two taller platforms. The players are seen gesturing their lines within a silent, fleeting world. The ethereal atmosphere I felt before walking into the gallery was shattered by the bizarreness of each form exposed by overly warm spotlights. photo 1   At first I was solely interested in the materials, studying each object trying to parse out how such a brightly colored blob of what looked like expanding foam sealant and plaster could adhere together. The simple frame pedestals displaying the props, or colored stone like formations, were at such a height that the objects transformed into artifacts familiar in shape, yet part of a seemingly forgotten history. The curation was intentional to keep the viewer within its ring, scrutinizing each object in a museological fashion. It was when I took a step back, aligning myself with the stretcher to the far right, I began to draw links from indonesian shadow puppets in which the abstracted, almost primitive compositions revealed themselves. An outstretched pink form with spikes protruding from one side resembled an iguana. The central figure, the lead role, took on the caricature of a Chinese Empress in full regalia, red packing tape and all. Even the mounted prints on vinyl, that shared the same colors of the artifacts, became a proxy for what would define place or environment in a theatre set.  Each character beautiful, provisional, and isolated began to weave an intricate narrative between painting and theatre. photo 3 Returning to the front of the gallery, the half covered stretcher as a viewfinder offered a limited perspective of the exhibition where the viewer is unsure what they are walking into comparable to the opening night of a play. The tall angular figure (Proto) I thought to be a bear, now doubled as a gargoyle. The subjective image each statue depicted had surpassed the materiality of the sculpture. There was sense of playfulness and imagination to the point where I could no longer ignore that I too had mounted the stage to perform. ALL MET is a reminder that when experiencing any work of art the viewer is performing the script the artist has written through composition, color and material. However, the conclusion of ALL MET is open to interpretation as narrative is constructed by the movement between and around the pedestals. ALL MET not only reiterates the link between painting and theatre, but also revitalizes the necessity of imagination.




West 18th Street Fashion Show – KC ART NEWS

This year’s West zoloft reviews 18th Street Fashion Show, titled, “Ceremonial Summer,” was the biggest and most exciting show yet. Every year, the block between Baltimore and Wyandotte is closed off. Thousands of people filled the streets, the seats, and the roofs of buildings to catch a glimpse of taking clomid and evening primrose oil the withdrawal symptoms of cymbalta show.

Mark Allen interviews Gigi Harris, junior intern for Birdies, and Danielle Meister, co-owner of Birdies and a show producer, to see what they thought. Watch the video below for full coverage of the event.

 




Short review: Farstad + Donner Powerful Storytellers at Plug Projects

The Saints by Julie Farstad

Tucked on the south side of 670 West, Plug Projects opened its doors to two shows working in tandem to construct a narrative of girlhood, and ultimately, motherhood. Plug is known for bringing in out of town artists, but now have expanded their back gallery space to exclusively exhibit local solo exhibitions. Julie Farstad, whose practice can best be described as a surrealist hybrid of embroidery, painting, and installation, was able to use this space first for her solo exhibition, Under The Orange Sky. The front space of Plug was dominated by the work of mixed media installations and paintings by Crista Donner, an

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artist from Chicago who utilizes the female form in narratives about our relation to home and the notion of the colony in HOM/E\MBODY.

 

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Our New System by Christa Donner

The entire show at Plug refers to the notion of storytelling and the capturing of dreams. In Donner’s work, surreal scenes are isolated into ornate paintings that could fit in the palm of a hand and constructed as parts to a whole installation. Donner’s use and denial of the edge of her creations is key. Cut paper works, reminiscent of Swoon, hearken the sense of fragility within these works as small pieces to be discovered. The dream-like non-linear flow of storytelling in Donner’s pieces corresponds perfectly to that of the work of Julie Farstad.

 

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Pioneer Saints by Julie Farstad

Although a wall and a drastic change in paint color separates Farstad from Donner, the surreal use of space continues. Instantly, two blindfolded dolls contextualize the work with the idea that “we are sleeping,” and the works — paintings and painstaking embroideries — act like glass lenses to the subconscious of a child. While the dolls in the spaces of Farstad’s work seem extremely lonely, the way that they dominate the composition gives them a real sense of power and control over the situations they are

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placed in. Mountains and clay-like objects in the landscape operate with the color palette to create an absolutely surreal “non-world” for us to delight in entering.

This show of bad ass female mastery of medium and storytelling is up at Plug projects until June 22nd 2014 and is on view from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays. For more info on this show or on Plug Projects, visit plugprojects.com