Sunday, September 6, 2015

"Louisiana Contemporary" at the Ogden Museum

Much of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art's annual Louisiana Contemporary exhibition looks like it  might have been curated by our native musical voodooist, Dr. John. In fact, it was curated by Prospect New Orleans director Brooke Davis Anderson, whose background in folk art may have helped prepare her for south Louisiana. But the anthropological spirituality seen here is really part of a broader move away from the academic theory of recent decades, and toward work that harks to the origins of art in
ancient rituals and the far recesses of the psyche. For instance, Kristin Meyers' Bound by Nature, above left, is a vaguely figurative concoction made up of whorls of wicker, hair, basketry, cowry shells and twine tied into a psychically charged fetish that resonates an eerie, mother earth vibe. Meyers says she engages in ritual practice "to explore the human condition," and indeed, her work can seem curiously alive. But for sheer weirdness it's hard to beat Elizabeth Derby's We Tease to Please hair assemblage, a tangled mat of braided and unbraided locks like something conjured by Marie Laveau reincarnated as a street corner beautician.

No less voodooesque is Chris Lawson's This is Not a Clown, top (detail). Here doll parts, ceramic frogs, antique bottles, pool balls and the like comprise an alchemical roux from the dark corners of the collective unconsciousness reconfigured into a spooky reliquary of cultural memory. Michael Aldana's I Can Still Taste Christmas in Your Hair painting, left, of a four-armed, four-breasted, pantyhose-clad diva takes us to the intersection of pop culture and the cosmic, but Carl Joe Williams' painting of a little girl contemplating a dandelion amid flashbacks of the Calliope housing project evokes the quieter magic of ordinary life--as does Ruth Owen's Done Marching painting of a seated, overweight woman in racy black lingerie. She could have been rendered as a comical figure, but Owens paints her so sensitively that her unexpected beauty is revealed for all to see. ~Bookhardt / Louisiana Contemporary: Statewide Juried Exhibition of Works by 68 Artists, August 1 - September 20, 2015, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.