February 3 – June 3, 2018
University of Arizona Museum of Art
Guest curated by Dani Stuchel
Spring Exhibitions Opening
February 22, 2018
5:00 – 8:00 PM
University of Arizona Museum of Art
“Does it make you angrier to see yourself clearly and not love what you see, or to see yourself distorted and to be told it’s really you? I’m asking because I’ve seen so many reflections as the waves come in – my head fractured and sutured by/with bubbles, chin drawn down into the earth’s core where magma does electrolysis, mouth dissolved. I once stared into a puddle in my driveway until I believed it was a portal into another world, until I believed what I saw were trees in another universe and not a reflection of the tree 20 feet from my house. I am looking into the ocean waves and they keep insisting back with pictures they say are of me, but I’m trying to see the sand below the wave. Optics are tricky. I am in my own way again, both meanings.” (1)
We are emerging through. Behind declarations of self and subjectivity, stance-taking and stake-claiming, shouts of ascendancy and cries of oppression are processes of mutation, re/dis/figuration, molding, and filtration. We are formed in interactions both cooperative and coercive with actors grossly human and reassuringly alien.
Best Wishes offers a series of works which point us towards the filterings, distillations, and screenings through which the we might be emerging. Rather than focus on figuration and ‘the final product,’ this exhibit opts to ask by what means our worlds are made and what traces of those processes continue on in our bodies, ecologies, and imaginaries. How is the filter always (with) us?
Filters are a unique form of interaction because they work to amplify and diminish selectively. Consider the human ear with its ridges and channels. The shape of the ear determines which frequencies are heard easily and which frequencies are easily missed. The mouth is a filter, too – re-forming itself rapidly to pull up or push down the intensity of certain frequencies so that you say a certain word, or have a certain accent, or ask a certain question instead of giving a certain answer. Optical filters like water and glass can offer ever-changing distortions which implicate perspective and time, or can give back frustrating reflections rather than showing what’s underneath. Filters can say no.
The works I have selected will, I hope, offer visitors an opportunity to consider filters in many forms and roles. By focusing on art which does not portray human bodies (on a literal level), but which can mutate space, time, light, and sound, I am aiming to hint at the unnoticed structures – both ecological and social – which filter our experiences and embodiments both subliminally and overtly.
To consider the filter is not to forsake the body, but rather to challenge the primacy of bodily sociality in self-understanding. For those of us who experience figuration and legibility as a no-win game, we often understand ourselves best through patterns of failed interaction, reduction, and misunderstanding. The incongruence is not between who I am and how I am hailed, but between the enduring power of the gendered hail and my own ambivalence towards having a gendered self-understanding. To find all gendered existence absurd is to find refuge in the works of Jonathan Marquis, Mario Reis, Anne Truitt, and Athena Tacha.
I selected the title Best Wishes based on the eponymous painting by Mary Callery. In her painting, a set of tools are depicted through lines that appear hasty or perhaps partially animated. Symbol-like streaks of blue, red, and green interact with the tools in a way that confuses prepositions. Are the streaks on the tools? Under? Over? Around? Mishuana Goeman’s work inspires me to read the streaks as emerging through the tools and the tools as emerging through the streaks. Emerging through, Goeman explains, is a way of describing subjectivity in indigenous epistemologies. We emerge through the land; we do not arrive onto it. Callery’s streaks are broken up, filtered, by the lines of the tools. The tools return the favor. Their existences are linked to cooperative filtering. The text below, “Best Wishes 1955,” reads like a greeting card for the new year. Something about the text reminds me of the chance involved in filtering, in making. Filters do not work evenly, do not apply identically to diverse substances and densities. It is difficult to predict how a filter will alter that which passes through it. I read Mary Callery’s text as a wry, perhaps semi-sarcastic blessing.
We’re all being filtered / we are all filtering – best wishes.
(1) Excerpt from “on faggot,” an unpublished essay by Dani Stuchel.
Scott Andrew, sploshing the void 3 (2013). Video. 5 minutes 43 seconds.
Feliciano Bejar, Custodia (1978). Sculpture, steel/crystal. H-52.36 W-19.48 D-10.4 inches. 1979.014.001
Edgar Heap of Birds, Neuf Series Scarf (1992). Textile, acid dye. H-42.48 W-42.48 inches. 1993.014.001
Mary Callery, Best Wishes (1955). Painting, oil and pen on paper. H-7.76 W-5 inches. 1956.004.005
Elaine Galen, Desert View, Arizona (1990). Painting, watercolor/ink/oil. H-22.047 W-29.921 inches.
Genichiro Inokuma, Wood Sculpture (1957). Sculpture, wood. H-14.68 W-23.96 inches. 1958.015.002
Julia Jacquette, To Kiss Your Lips, Kiss (1999). Etching. H-10.827 W-10.827 inches. 2001.012.001.002
Thomas Kausel, Orange (2013). Serigraph. 2016.006.003
Jonathan Marquis, Ablation Site Eight: Breaking apart is a chance to see, listen for the ice creep (2017).
Single channel video, LCD screen, plywood, spray paint.
Nancy Tokar Miller, Elephant Terrace (2008). Painting, acrylic on canvas. H-62 W-70 inches. 2009.001.001
Mario Reis, Tonto Creek, AZ (1998). Nature watercolor. H-20.12 W-21.72 inches. 1999.009.001.
Mario Reis, Fraser River, BC (1998). Nature watercolor. H-20.709 W-21.063 inches. 1999.009.008
Renee Stout, Doublecross (1997). Sculpture, mixed media. H-37.2 W-75.2 D-6.8 inches. 1998.004.001
Athena Tacha, Raindrop Park (1986). Sculpture, cork/Masonite/pin/cardboard. H-21.36 W-40.2 D-1.2
Anne Truitt, Summer Treat (1968). Sculpture, acrylic on wood. H-110 W-24.2 D-24.2 inches. 1969.006.001