Friday, October 15, 2004

Carolyn Henne

Last night I went to Carolyn Henne's artist talk at ADA Gallery.

First impression on seeing the show last week brought to mind the Mutter Museum or perhaps the trophy room of the hunter that killed Babar's mother, with amputated stumps made into seats and plant stands. The pieces on stilts or legs were especially disconcerting, simultaneously repulsive and cartoony cute. Those pieces sway when lightly pushed and I was able to experience that bit of surprise mentioned by Carolyn when I first saw one get pushed last week. The lower pieces are intended to be sat on. All of these pieces are malleable and feel like an artificial skin. Remember those action figure dolls, the Fem-bots and the Bionic Man, and you could roll the skin up their faces or arms? They feel like that.

The floor-to-ceiling column is intentionally squished in, folding a bit in places. Carolyn talked about how she is interested in "pressures". Internal forces pushing out creating forms, and the affects of external pressures on those forms. Like being squished into a room or sat on.

It was interesting to learn that these pieces can be considered self-portraits. Carolyn made a full body cast of herself some years ago, which she then gridded off and it sounds like cut into pieces. Carolyn refers to these pieces as "tiles" and I'm not clear if the pieces are more like slices or cubes, but they have been the building blocks of all her subsequent work. The pieces in this show are mostly made from tiles taken from her lower back, recast in multiples, rearranged and recombined. The spindly legs of the pieces I mentioned above are the same tiles in a smaller scale. The whole room is full of models of genetically engineered Carolyn-creatures turning their backs to us. I wouldn't want to be in that room during a lightning storm!

A woman asked how Carolyn would feel showing at the American Craft Museum, I guess because some of Carolyn's sculpture is functional and would therefore be considered craft. Didn't that woman watch the debates? Aren't we through with labels?