Mutations are the raw materials of evolution. Mutations can be a single or collective. A single mutation can have a large effect that over time duplicates to acquire a new function or form. This can provide the basis for adaptive evolution and survival.
The artists selected for Mutations of Otherness interpret the context of mutation as organic, biological, physical, psychological, political and surreal.
Drawn to the concept of multiples in the structure and tradition of the modernist grid, artist Stefani Quam uses the repetitive size as a control to define the unique with comparatives of chance in her work Ellipses. With the work Untitled, Ellie Hunter, uses mixed media collage in the grid format, reminding us of the variants found in human genetic code system. Both Quam and Hunter have unique marks within each unified shape that contains a generation of difference and as a grid is seen as a whole.
In the photographic work of Lemia Bodden and Sasha Andruzheychik, the mutation is the manipulation of the photography. Bodden’s photographs from the series Untitled Couples Project are portraits of couples that allude to the pluralism of a single persona into a mutation of multiple personas. These images visually become physical movement that creates mystery far removed from a typical portrait as they interchange between what appears male and female. The viewer cannot rest on just one feature, as they appear to flip back in forth. Andruzheychik’s work stems from the Surrealist tradition of imagined psychosis that deconstructs and edits information to create a disquieting gaze found in work entitled Fetish Object. These sexual and intimate vignettes of the body are mutated forms that appear to be specimens from an historical cabinet of curiosity.
This history of exploration to uncover unique objects found cabinets of curiosity from exotic worlds extend to exploration in Lauren Levato Coyne’s work. Levato-Coyne’s drawings are imagined self-portraits. Her interest in western-culture’s capture of the “unknown” to create mythos of otherness can be seen in drawing Self Portrait as Thief in the Night, alludes to her own self-invention of otherness. Levato-Coyne’s drawings stay within the borders much like a scientific drawing within the visual border. Susan Emmerson’s ink and gouache drawing entitled Heteroclite II also stays within the border like a contained mass. Emmerson abstracts her own biology creating expanding amoebic shapes that appear to metamorphosize on the paper referencing fluid shapes made of hair, tissue and microorganisms.
The natural animal world becomes the subject of mutations and is evident in the sculptural work of Michelle Acuff and Cheryl Hochberg. Acuff’s work Surrogate, a seemingly quiet deer stands supporting tangled and multiplied antlers that almost appear like twisted intestines. The work comments on multiple issues, from the industry of controlled farming to genetically modified foods and the side effects found in nature. Hochberg’s work entitled Bertha’s Monster is a combination of nature re-designed as fused animal and human parts. This work is much like an exquisite corpse of outstretched wings, goat head and human legs that appear to crash into the space.
On a smaller sculptural scale, artists, Colby Beutel, Logan Brody and Yareth Fernandez, re-invent through material to create abstract objects. Colby Beutel’s She Shells and He Shells works transform unwanted objects into surreal sculptures. Fusing zippers to create sexualized somewhat playfully menacing forms turning them into almost secretive objects. Logan Brody’s sculpture Untitled (The Shell Game series) hints at the Proterozoic Era, the beginnings or traces of life. Brody’s architectural abstract sculptural piece reveals a human finger being birthed from primal material touching on the mutations found in evolution. In the work of Yareth Fernandez, the evolution of present day consumption is addressed as disparate objects are reinvented and re-imagined into sculptures. Fernandez’s White-spotted Blue Thing lives like a growth existing within the environment, it is un-natural but seemingly we accept it as an adaptable living organism commenting on human excess of mass-produced objects as a mutation of ideology. – Shoshanna Weinberger / May 2014