Autumn Casey at Emma Geller Green
Third Hand Mary | March 18 – April 15, 2017
We construct reality through the stories we tell and the stories we are told. Third Hand Mary operates around a growing realization in the contemporary world that what is entered into a historical ledger, and by extension public consciousness, is often dictated by many unreliable narrators. Focusing on the storytelling power of symbol and imagery, the artists in this exhibition alter available content, repurposing both the foreign and familiar – a piece of jewelry, mollusk shells, obscure icons – to create new lines of information through replication and revision.
The exhibition takes its name from the Triherousa, or three-handed Madonna, an art historical subject central to the recent work of artist Marysia Gacek. The prevailing folklore behind this bizarre, multi-limbed Christian icon states that St. John of Damascus, after losing his hand to an accusation of treason, paid a desperate visit to the painted Virgin, praying for her to regrow his severed limb. His request was granted, and in a show of thanks, the healed St. John placed a ceramic hand before the idol. Over time, unwitting iconographers began to mistakenly incorporate the false hand into reproductions of the picture, eventually resulting in a triple armed Virgin Mary.
Gacek isolates this case of unintentional revisionism, re-creating her own variations on the Triherousa. The artist’s holy bodies, however, lack heads and legs, consisting only of excess ceramic hands joined by flat, deflated skins of neoprene. They are mutated cyborgs of history, which, like the stories they represent, are handed over and over until they no longer bear resemblance to their original form. The new works she presents here further evolve this concept – departing from the figure and instead wrapping the pedestals on which they are shown in the neoprene skin, on top of which sit ceramic gloves instead of hands.
Autumn Casey’s post-production practice draws from a collection of objects and images, mass produced and singular. For Third Hand Mary she pairs her old clothing with figurines, heirlooms and items of cultural detritus to create “fashion displays” that play on the fantasies of feminine glamour perpetuated by commercial media and the fashion industry. These works redefine the use-value of soft goods and question the psychological narratives created by their advertising.
In the work of both Christine Navin and Antonia Kuo, process plays a lead role. Navin’s -wall reliefs hold the imprints of fossils, toiletries, junk food and plant life. She composes her objects, linking them formally – a shrimp with a Cheeto, for example – into a mold made from an expanding material which grows each item to a little beyond life-size, then creates casts from the molds. The results are uncanny reproductions that confuse our natural sense of proportion and scale, and settle in a place just outside of the real.
Antonia Kuo’s printed abstractions are created through repeated chemical and physical interventions. The works in this exhibition flow between drawing, photography and printmaking – the products of layers of transformation and replication. For Kuo, each substrate is a vehicle of removal from the original content, toward a dissolution of representational truth.