Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Perla Kopeloff

The best definition I’ve heard for wisdom is this: the ability to apply lessons from the past toward present situations. Wisdom seems to be about adapting and growing, without losing any of the treasures earned along the way. Some might say that Perla Kopeloff is a good candidate for the term "wise woman." Certainly, much of her work is infused with wise cracks -- talk with her for a while and you'll get to know those sidelong glances are a sure sign she's about to say something with two or three layers of meaning, thrown out and smoothed over almost before you get the joke.

Collage is the perfect means of expression for this multi-layered woman. Born and raised in Argentina, Kopeloff arrived in the U.S. as a young bride, and soon found herself immersed in the world of weaving. Even though she had already earned the equivalent of a master's degree in architecture, she now had a whole new culture to explore -- the weavings and baskets of the northern Appalachian region fascinated her. After apprenticing with craftspeople in the region, Kopeloff struck out on her own, gaining regional recognition as a talented weaver. To her conservative husband's dismay, the artist quickly filled the living room of their suburban home with looms and works in progress -- she was growing out of her old life. Kopeloff arrived in Taos, NM, in the early '80s, a single mother and working artist who had finally found her home. In addition to weaving, Kopeloff began papermaking and collage -- eventually, discarded objects from cultures both contemporary and ancient found their way into her work.

Kopeloff's voice has developed along with her commitment to listen to those who have been forgotten. A series of vestimentas and camisas seems to offer the landscape as a garment -- a reminder of our connection to home and to the earth, despite our efforts to leave it behind. Kopeloff's best work serves to jog the memory -- here are the priorities, intermingled with the detritus of living, sometimes dramatic and sometimes subtly covered. The purity of the idea, however, always comes through. Her shadow boxes, like altars, brim with prayers both little and big. These works reflect an inner landscape, as well as the place that holds her. Paper made from South American abaca trees, shapes and patterns that evoke Incan culture, Colorado soil, yard sale jewelry, battered parking lot trash, even pop culture icons like Wonder Woman and Batman weave their way through her work with the ease of silk thread and the substantial insistence of river reeds.

Although thousands of details are intricately woven into each of Kopeloff's works, many also reflect an emptiness -- a space where those abandoned voices can congregate. Like the best weavers, she is still using what was started long ago, revealing the truth of rich and vibrant visual effects. That exuberance is part of the same family as something more quiet and dark -- together, the collective wisdom shines.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Please contact Insight Art Connection to inquire about this work.

I've been typing that sentence a lot lately, and somehow it develops new meaning with this piece. If people have miniature dachsunds, it seems to me they really have an elevated sense ofcompulsory love. This sculpture by Sharon McCoy is made of found objects, clay, cold and fired glazes. It belongs under someone's Christmas tree, and they'll be soooooo glad you helped guide them to it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Laura A. Murphy

Forbidden Fruit, Laura Murphy

Laura Murphy still recalls the day she learned about the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. "There's a phase in the middle where there is nothing but goo left in the chrysalis. The butterfly literally rebuilds itself from complete disintegration."

Rebuilding is at the heart of Murphy's work -- her passion lies in recycling old and discarded materials, "participating in a cycle of death and renewal." Her best works reflect that passion. The sculpture "Tree Book" rises tremulously from its base, ruffled pages of a book sprouting airy willow branches. Low-fire ceramic, natural materials and dye, papier mache and handmade, denim paper make up the work, one of her most outspoken environmental statements.

As statements go, it's more of a gentle reminder -- a hint that we might do well to think carefully about all the consumption around us. This gentle touch runs through all of Murphy's work: goddess paintings celebrate the innocuous rituals of planting and marking the changing of the seasons. But there is a harder truth to tell here, as well. Murphy's paintings flow with multiple folds of flesh -- her unflinching depictions of unsettlingly large women with androgynous faces explore an alternative beauty beyond the tucked and brushed ideal of a goddess in our society. These straightforward, full-frontal shots of women in their imperfect bodies hark to the devastatingly honest portraits of Alice Neel. At the same time, soft, earthy colors and dreamy lines lend grace to figures typically associated with awkwardness in our society.

Her sculptures and installations share that same sense of ease. "Seed Bowl" honors the quiet, easy perfection of nature -- muted colors and graceful curves display a complex geometric pattern of arranged bowl-gourd seeds. Her "abc" series of garden installations also served as maquettes for a larger project tentatively scheduled with the US Forest Service. Clusters of hungry-looking clay cones crowd together, vaguely reminiscent of an unruly bouquet of calla lilies. The material is unglazed and raw -- it is designed to break down over time, bending to the will of nature, until, at last, carefully placed seeds sprout and take hold. Plants chosen for their hardiness and environmental benefits stand in the wake of the collapsed, woman-made structure.

The contrast between delicate vulnerability and the unrelenting power of nature is an arching theme in Murphy's work. It is a perennial question with roots in various women's movements; the issue finds expression both in her movement between fine art and traditional women's crafts, and in her driven commitment to community involvement. Murphy wears a stack of weighty hats: she serves as the assistant gallery director and an art instructor at Adams State College, organizes and participates in a variety of online and real-time arts forums, and volunteers for worthy causes as diverse as poverty and capital punishment.

That collaborative, inclusive approach to art making -- and to living -- channels much of the power of Judy Chicago's work. Chicago knew that a woman committed to honoring the feminine in our society has her work cut out for her, and Murphy has proven she's up to the challenge. The balance between hard work and peaceful healing -- power and vulnerability -- must grow from the ashes of old understandings. Like changing into a butterfly, the process requires the faith to break down into nothing; the most remarkable quality of Murphy's work is the clarity within that balance.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Smash II

I've heard feedback about my Smash entry not sounding very nice, so I'm revisiting it for clarification: I'm sorry it didn't sound nice! I was having a very stressful technology day, and Pink Yogini actually felt very peaceful and uplifting -- prayerful, which is what I wasn't feeling! Except that, in a postmodern way -- my way of conveying the oneness within apparent duality -- that prayerfulness was living through my Smash attitude. How's that for verbal flow? It's really what I meant to say...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


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