In Touch 

Two Memphis shows get physical.

For the Memphis College of Art's exhibition "The Matter at Hand," artists used simple tools and everyday materials to handcraft complex, extraordinary wood carvings, quilts, crochet, and ceramics. Somewhere between high and low art, these works take postmodern narrative to new heights of satire, social commentary, and shtick.

Jeana Eve Klein's mixed-media quilt The Rise and Fall of Old Mold House is Southern gothic with a sense of humor. Smack dab in the middle of the large quilt, Klein has sewn a bas-relief rag doll and stuffed her with fabric. With auburn hair and long mascaraed eyelashes, she looks up at the viewer like a kiddie Scarlett O'Hara. Accustomed to a life of leisure, her arm hangs limp at her side. She lolls back on a long sloping lawn in front of a Southern mansion where large oak trees drip with moss. We can just make out the white columns at the end of a lawn. Everything in her world is fading fast except her sense of entitlement — one of the reasons "Old Mold House" (and civilization) might fall.

Membranes glisten inside the small opening at one end of Jason Briggs' ceramic sculpture, Lover. Bound up like a papoose, studded with what could be warts or ritual decorations, and carefully laid out on a wad of cotton like a prize possession, Lover is both grotesque and beautiful. This wickedly funny, hand-sized work of art is arguably the centerpiece of the show.

click to enlarge Tracy Krumm's Cone (Sleeve)
  • Tracy Krumm's Cone (Sleeve)

In a work of metal alchemy, Cone (Sleeve), Tracy Krumm crochets copper and brass into an Arthurian damsel's dress sleeve so delicate and gauzy it begs to be touched. The cone that cups the end of the sleeve ties the loose threads into a metal sieve so tightly woven it could be the damsel's chastity belt or the metal jacket of the knight who protects her.

Race Among the Ruins is Aaron Spangler's wood relief of a small town. Painted in charcoal gray and rubbed with graphite, the town looks charred. Some catastrophe has not only singed but felled trees and buildings with enough raw force to bend a car nearly in two. There are touches of the surreal and sinister. Far right, an upside-down cross that looks like the hilt and blade of a sword is carved above a rose window, like those found in Gothic churches. Another sword is thrust between the branches of a tree that reaches across the top half of the work.

Churches are scorched and towns and ideologies toppled in an enigmatic elegy that could have been titled Twilight of the Gods or Civilization in Ruin. Spangler's masterfully complex carving goes way beyond handicraft. Last year, Race Among the Ruins sold at auction at Christie's for more than $50,000.

Through March 21st

"Cling to Me," Joey Fauerso's exhibition at Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College, is one of the most sensual shows you will ever see. This is sensuality with a capital "S" — as in senses, not sexual titillation.

In Fauerso's video Get Naked, we fly over cold, barren landscapes, watch human figures huddle at the side of a highway, and glimpse a woman, covered in muslin, touching her head to the ground. This black-and-white footage could be the opening scenes in a film noir in which some dark drama is about to unfold. Not here. In between these snippets from the past, a young man undresses, lies down, throws back his head, and opens his mouth. Sunlit waters wash over his body.

Watch the video several times. Superficial personae, linear time, and memory slip away. What begins as a disorienting, ever-shifting kaleidoscope of water-color washes becomes a compellingly effective meditation that, instead of blocking out the natural world or stilling the mind, reminds us how to go with the flow.

That Joey Fauerso is a female tapping into the male aspects of her psyche to create Get Naked makes this an even more interesting, boundary-blurring work of art.

Through March 26th


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