February FFAT: Retrograde & Shrill

The works in Isadora Stowe’s “Retrograde” are as visually enticing as it gets. Housed in 5&J Gallery, large circles and small triangles of plywood, overlaid with atmospheric washes of paint resembling a receding cloudy atmosphere form the background of vinyl cutouts of a repertoire of shapes.


She uses airplanes, satellites, succulent plants, houses, flowers, and moths in silhouette, as well as what looks not like abstraction, but a real form silhouetted and cropped to unrecognition. This formula produces variations on a theme throughout the exhibition’s work. Their radially symmetric shapes present like a key to be decrypted as the eye moves in and out of each work—repeating shapes on a cloudily atmospheric background together evoke a place (northern Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada) and a time (~1960-present).


There is no such key, though; Stowe seems to be casting lots with each work, seeing where the silhouettes land and hoping some meaning can be divined from them. The interrelationships of a plane to a moth to a house with a succulent growing out of it, while probably not literally random, provide neither narrative nor hierarchy. They only sit in the atmosphere, allowing the viewer to do with them as she will—imposing political, social, or personal meaning on the scattered fragments.


Some artists conveying some milieu provide commentary on the context at hand by giving relative value to the items forming the composition of their work. Stowe, in avoiding this, greatly broadens the audience capable of recognizing the work (they are literal, flat objects), while narrowing the audience for whom it is meaningful. Three viewers from Denver, New York, and Beijing necessarily have diminishing levels of connection to the work as they originate further afield because they have less connection to the shapes in the work. The work cannot escape its creator’s region.


In CASP live/work studio #4, Victoria Bee’s curated exhibition “Shrill” follows the widely attended open-call exhibition “Nasty Women” asserting contemporary feminism in the inescapable context of the Trump presidency.

Shrill (Image from Facebook- Photocredit: Victoria Marie Bee)

Presenting the visual works of Katelyn McPherson, Katie Rivera, and Stephanie Berrie, and poetry readings by Curtis Bauer, Kyle Bassett, Chen Chen, Katrina Prow, and Jessica Smith, the exhibition’s opening raised funds for Lubbock-based charities supporting women.

detail: Katie Rivera (Image from Facebook- Photocredit: Victoria Marie Bee)

By virtue of Bee’s far less democratic (small d, wink wink) curation, the exhibition works better as a presentation of artworks than its thematic predecessor. Each work stands on its own and recognizably addresses the theme, riffing on the dog whistle delegitimation of women with the label “shrill”.

detail: Katelyn McPherson (Image from Facebook- Photocredit: Victoria Marie Bee)

*The author's opinions are his own.

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