Review: Nicolle LaMere at FFAT

Opening this First Friday at the Gallery 5 & J was Nicolle LaMere’s sculpture MFA thesis exhibition, “The Authentic Life”. Meticulously constructed (if limited in quantity), it included 2 intimately-scaled works, 1 wall-hanging work, and 2 large floor-standing works, all of which have multiple parts. Horror Vacui refers to the filling of all available space in a work (think Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delight”). LaMere’s “Horror Vacui” are 8 glass, ceramic, plaster, and paper sculptures, each about 3x3x2 inches. Hung on 5&J Gallery’s giant walls, they stand in comical contrast to their name’s meaning.

Each appears to be broken bits of ceramic and glass adhered into a cup-shaped mold, the fragments creating an intricate series of edges, tunnels, and shards within the cup shape. Backing each is a cluster of burnt paper, some of which is fallen on the floor below. Similar in structure but much, much larger is “Retrospective”. A large floor piece of the same materials assembled by what appears to be the same means, it strikes one differently from “Horror Vacui” by virtue of its position more than its construction. Both works give the impression of an accumulation, like the chaotic structures of rock and earth one finds in high deserts. They appear to be freshly uncovered and brought into the gallery space, a sample extracted from the creation of unknown large forces.

“As Above So Below” was (and presumably is no more) a series of three spheroids of ice and ceramic, also floor pieces. Broken shards of ceramic structures revealed themselves partially through the ice, resembling a skeleton being exposed by the relative heat of the room. “Three Graces” is a triptych on what appears to be Tyvek (or similar impermeable membrane), on which is the desiccated remains of a culture of bacteria and yeast. Their colony sits preserved among some presumed agar on which they fed on top of the membrane. They are presented in the form of paintings, but ones created only indirectly by the artist’s hand. All the exhibition’s works are worlds set in motion by a clockmaker, a removed deity. Carefully chosen materials starting from a thoughtful order, allowed to undergo one of several processes of destruction, and preserved in their broken state, they encourage the viewer to ponder the similarity-by-way-of-difference of more familiar creation processes. How and why chaotic processes induce what they do is a perpetual question for artists interested in earth, landscape, and decay. LaMere through this work has addressed it with elegant simplicity—creating some and letting viewers do with it what they will.

What LaMere presents to the viewer is devoid of “message” as usually understood—it doesn’t assert or even imply. It presents an alternate reality having something to do with our own. This something comes into relief in being isolated from the rest of ‘normal’ reality. The work is then free to change our vision of the something through the alternate world the artist has created.

*The author's opinions are his own. Images courtesy of the artist.

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