Opening this Saturday, May 12th at the 39th Street Gallery and Project Space is Love, Loss and Lipstick, a two-artist show featuring Virginia-based artists Taliaferro Logan and Caryl Burtner. The opening runs from 5:30-8:00pm and coincides with the 8th annual Gateway Open Studios tour. East City Art recently visited the gallery for a personal tour with the show’s curator Tosha Grantham.
The modus operandi of each artist is strikingly similar. Visitors walking into the gallery are bombarded by multiple series of small-scale works, each methodically hung in groups of cohesive vignettes that when taken together paint a nostalgic portrait of emotional moments long since past. Integral to each artist is the use of found objects and materials as totemic emblems within each small-scale work. Grantham specifically chose these artists based on the way their pieces naturally “converse”, and while visually each artist’s work could stand on its own as a small solo show, there is indeed a symbiosis as the grids play off one another. While visually similar, these two artists take different approaches in how they manifest past memories. Where Logan’s work references commonly understood artistic idioms, the impetus for Burtner’s pieces lie firmly within her own experience.
Taliaferro Logan’s Paint Sample Series pulls the visitor through the front doors into center of the gallery. Using small strips of Benjamin Moore paint swatches, Logan draws whimsical landscapes, portraits and nudes whose individual titles are based on the name of the swatch’s paint color. Each piece is framed in a rococo-inspired, black frame that literally leaps off the wall. According to Grantham, the “colors have innuendo”, most keenly expressed in small, Parisian-style nudes done in seductive shades of pink and red. Here Logan deftly examines the ways in which color can trigger an emotional response. In a similar vein, her Lucretia Series, features multi-hued interpretations of The Suicide of Lecretiaby Lucas Cranach the Elder. By riffing on Northern Renaissance imagery with colorful, found materials, Logan is taking an emotionally-nuanced view of “the feminine mystique”, causing us to question how women have been artistically portrayed in epochs past.
Where Logan’s work toys with emotional impulses cloaked in whimsy, Caryl Burtner’s vignettes present a very personal emotional landscape with hills and valleys eroded by the passing of time. Burtner has spent the past three decades collecting the minutiae of daily life and using these found articles as a basis for series of remembrances. Painstakingly documented, these ephemeral objects present us fragments of emotional moments muted by the years. In Flowers, Burtner presents individual, dried flowers alongside imagery and a notation regarding the moment she received (or gave) the particular botanical. Flowers are a conduit for emotion in Western culture (often given for weddings, funerals and as declarations of love), and used in this way Burtner presents personal emotional moments stripped of outright pain or joy, leaving a feeling akin to nostalgia.
Other works by Burtner document her social bonds over time with close friends and associates. Since 1978, Burtner has asked brides for their signature after their wedding. These signatures, captured on everything from stationary to cocktail napkins, form the impetus for Brides First Signature. Individually, these items honor the emotionally-laden, life changing moments in her friends’ lives. As a collective,
they document the changing of social mores relating to how married women choose to identify themselves by the use of hyphenated and maiden names. In a similar vein, the series Hair Locks, comprised of locks of hair and a dated photo, highlights the changing appearances over time of the artist, her long-term partner and close friends, highlighting the fact that time doesn’t stand still.
While both artists works’ tend to play off of another, there is one quiet moment in the gallery where they intersect in an almost collaborative way. Displayed together on a plinth to one side of the room are Sensory Cells by Ms. Logan and Box of Fingernails by Ms. Burtner. Both works use cast-off “items” from the body to document the passage of time. Sensory Cells is Logan’s most personal piece in the show (though the curator is quick to point out she has other bodies of work along this vein) and as such perhaps resonates most closely with Burtner’s pieces. This intimate pairing of pieces added a sweet, harmonious note to the overall exhibition.
Love, Loss and Lipstick runs through June 30th, 2012. For more information, visit the gallery’s website at www.39thstreetgallery.org