TBA On Sight: Anissa Mack, visual artist
My Heart Wants More, TBA Day 2 (ongoing)
posted by: Sara Regan, TBA blogger
As was sung last night at the venerable Schnitz in three-part harmony, with the Symphony for a band: Hallelujah. Hallelujah for TBA and the joy it has commenced to bring us yet again! Now campers, if you’re ready to really dig into this festival, and you’re ready to get small (sort of like Alice, but more like Grover when he goes waaay across the room) flip to the “On Sight” portion of your TBA guidebooks and venture forth into Anissa Mack’s perspective. Today I returned from a transformative odyssey of the mind at The Lumber Room (415 NW 9th Ave), thanks to the exhibit curated and crafted by Mack, entitled, “My Heart Wants More.”
This exhibit is a combination of Anissa Mack’s own sculptures, and works by other artists that Mack deemed to have a similar “theme” – if one can call a mind-melting combination of space, time, memory, infinity and reality-question-mark a theme. With a bit of guidance, which I will attempt to impart here, you (the sentient you) will be forced to the edge of your intellect as you attempt to answer the glaring questions of the universe. At the same time, you may suddenly treasure your memory, fearing its loss and attempting to make a quick inventory of what you have managed to retain that binds you to this world. Dear reader, I personally prefer not to frequent the freaky territory of theoretical physics and the bizarre frailty of perceived reality. Countless visceral distractions await in illuminated carriages to cart us away from that scary place. But when a thoughtful artist/genius gets Kubrick on you and makes you get in your shaky little lunar module with its thin, awkward legs, it’s thrilling.
I had the honor and sheer pleasure of discussing Anissa Mack’s work with her in person today at The Lumber Room. She explained that she approaches her works from a personal, often home-related aspect (ironic, considering their heady effects). She will base a work on something she remembers from her own past, and will bring that memory to life again in a new object that imitates the initial one. She often works at home, and therefore in the scale of objects in the home, that surround people in typical life. Plainly obvious is her immense skill in many types of craft (trained in some and learned in many more through books). The mere execution of her work is enough to delight. As an artist does, Mack adds her own interpretation of the craft, and other formatting elements that transform the work into a communicative piece of art. Two of her four pieces in “My Heart Wants More” are great examples of this.
One piece, entitled, “Broken Star (Variaton),” is an absolutely gorgeous quilt of black fabric with yellow thread. The highly elaborate symmetrical topstitching in a radial star and wreath pattern is stunning. Now, picture this – the quilt is a large trapezoid, so the bottom edge is a regular queen size, but the top is about half that. The entire pattern is adjusted to fit this trapezoidal shape. That alone is amazing, and the optical illusion of it hanging on the wall in this shape makes it appear in 3-D perspective: long, and stretched into space through the wall, very much like the “A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” beloved text crawl in Star Wars. It is just genius; please go see it.
Another sculpture, also entitled “My Heart Wants More,” is a water-laser-cut, powder-coated aluminum sculpture, somewhat like a wall hanging, in the detailed form of a clipper ship in full sail, seated on a white laundry basket. Ms. Mack indulged me in an explanation of this one, and it was a convoluted trip in time, nostalgia and cycles of memory. For one thing, the laundry basked reminds her of her mother folding laundry in the living room. Additionally, the clipper ship is based on a very strange cross-stitch piece her mother had in her bedroom, which had an accompanying “inspirational” quote that made hilariously little sense (Mack’s own inverted color version is shown here: http://www.anissamack.com/29.10). The way the ship and the basket harmonize, with light passing through the detailed cutouts of both, is a manifestation of memories of her mother and her objects. And Mack has situated the piece in front of a huge window in the Lumber Room, so when you regard it, you’re inevitably going to look out the picture window at the sky beyond, like you would if you were either watching clipper ships go by (in some imagined past), or folding laundry in your living room. The layers of meaning swirl and connect, and are at once ultra random but loaded with potent memories and feelings that both connect and blur past and present.
The other pieces Mack has included in this exhibit seamlessly augment Mack’s exploration of time, perspective and our perception of both. (These works are courtesy of the Lumber Room.) Of particular note is an unbelievable painting (from about 1965) of little numbers, once black but now in shades of grey and white, that begins with number 3583916. On an earlier canvas (around 1959), Polish painter Roman Opalka began with number 1. The project as a whole is called “1 – ∞.” Paired with the painting is a soundtrack of the artist counting out loud. Over the years, he’s also taken photos of his own face as he worked on these number paintings, so you see him age… it’s almost insane, and more than the sum of its parts. You’re also welcome to leaf through the beautiful fabric book of replicas of pieces of recently late artist Louise Bourgeois’ own wardrobe, constructed by her (in 2004) and entitled, “Ode À L’Oubli,” meaning “Ode to Forgetting.”
For many of these works, Anissa Mack suggests considering the plane of the piece vs. the implied plane of the subject, and see where the latter takes you – down the rabbit hole and into spatial oddyseys, with memories as your tether. Stop by the beautiful Lumber Room gallery to see these brilliant works!
For the TBA catalog description of this exhibit, see http://www.pica.org/tba/tba10/detail.aspx?eventid=595.
See you out there!
Reporting from Portland,
Sara Regan, TBA Press
Many thanks to Anissa Mack and Sarah Miller Meigs at The Lumber Room for generously sharing their time and tales today.