Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Craft and Afterlife - BFF on the 2nd floor

A trio of friends put on a surprisingly comprehensive show with BFF –Best Friends For now. Katrina Myers, Karen Sawicki, and Alexandra Shaver hardly use more than a single wall to construct a linear and thematically unified exhibit, their varied styles meshing well.

Reading left to right, we find an ascending journey: from the underworld to our world, then above. First is Myers' drawing of a ringed mountain mimicking Dante's circles of hell, from which we move to a vertical triptych of photos paralleling a painting by Sawicki, both depicting the
falling of the damned. Then we move to our own world, Myers contributing earthy drawings and beadings seemingly imported from islands unheard of, representing the uncivilized and savage, Shaver showing a psychedelic utopia, saturated and swirling paintings, inhabited by a few deer, a lot of minute detail, and much fluorescence. A Catholic in this crowd of heathens and hippies, Sawicki completes our living plane with her strange and melodramatic paintings in subdued near monochrome. An altarpiece and a few shrine-like displays contrast luxurious furs and fabrics with scrimshawed portraits, the scratched bone functioning more to make these vanitas than as sailors' mementos. Finally, Sawicki has a wall of scratchboard idols, shining gold and silver, a yearbook of the risen (and of her classmates).

The narrative that can be read through the work is fun, and the BFFs choice to avoid montage and present an edited and clean show is admirable, but the strongest point is the sincere investment visible in nearly everything hung. None of these artists are self-consciously trying to create something new or original, and therefore avoid contrived novelty. And though they wear their influence proudly, the work does not look derivative. The beadings and scrimshaw are carefully done, learned and practiced craft rather than token unusual materials. The work is created first for the love of creation, then for whatever else it carries.

Will Schneider-White/

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