Separate the Sheep From the Goats
I went to a show at the Craighead-Green Gallery where Heather Gorham was showing. If you took a Byzantine figure and introduced it to a Frida Kahlo painting, and they lived with the constrants of the 21st century, this is the baby they would have.
Although her work makes some people unsure how to feel: Should they enjoy the whimsy? Should they mourn for the poor unfortunate creatures? I always feel a sense of satisfaction that she’s accurately described the human condition. The attitude of her subjects shows complacent comfort with their disfigurement, and a slight joy dispite what a viewer might pity. You can’t call her work morbid, because she doesn’t attach emotion to her pieces, they introspectively encompass emotion. You can’t really call it disturbing either, because her subjects are not in pain, the only pain is what the viewer projects. I feel kinship and admiration for her characters like I do a three-legged dog, they aren’t complaining, and they aren’t hiding themselves for other’s comfort; they just are.
In this respect, its much like a snapshot of a world not obsessed with perfection, and outward appearance. Her work almost becomes a judgement on our culture of self-consciousness, that is if it was at all concerned with us. Even the style and media that Gorham employs ignores contemporary convention to a degree. She’s in the same boat as Frida Kahlo in that she’s not a surrealist, but her subjects aren’t conventional realism. She’s not making a political, or artistic statement with her paintings and sculptures. And though she does use mixed media, her concern for craftsmenship is too great to want to be ‘edgy’ with her media. She doesn’t reject video, minimalism, or the need for an artist statement, but she is uninterested in cluttering, cleaning or explaining her images and work. On her website she discribes as a child embracing the inherent melancholy and imperfections of constructing crude mud figures trying to make “the intangible real.”
Incidentally both Stan and I fell in love with Girl With Unhappy Cat. We separated in the gallery, and when we met back up, we’d both picked the same favorite.