Sunday, August 12, 2018

Shawne Major at Callan Contemporary

Do you sometimes see faces in clouds, messages in tea leaves, images of saints in tortillas? If so, you may be prone to pareidolia, a term for how people with overactive imaginations experience pattern recognition. If it seems an odd choice for the title of an art show, it makes more sense when you look more deeply into it. Although Shawne Major's elaborately beaded wall hangings and sculptures only rarely resemble anything in particular, their thousands of tiny stitched beads, buttons and micro-baubles stimulate the wandering imagination while offering sanctuary from horror vacui. Beyond all that, the New Iberia native gives us something to think about due to the way her colorfully meandering surfaces recall aerial views of Louisiana's swampy topography while evoking bayou level visions of mystical enchanted kingdoms like psychedelic duckweed flourishing as a new invasive species.

Just as the historical roots of beaded embroidery are spread far and wide, apparently originating in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia before eventually finding a home in medieval Europe where beadwork became a favored way of rendering saints with startlingly colorful dimensionality, Major's concoctions evoke global roots. Glyph, top, is mind-boggling for its suggestion of tribal beadwork and cellular biology but it is so interwoven with heirloom traditions that encountering it can be like finding a trove of beaded Victorian handbags containing mummified magic mushrooms amid the rosaries and Irish lace. Others are a tad more elemental. The marbled undulations of multicolored beads in Blind Alley recall the wavy patterning of muddy silt formations along the bird foot delta where the Mississippi meets the Gulf, but Sun Spot is more of a beaded vortex, almost like an elegant whirlpool of sea foam coughing up jewels from a long lost shipwreck. Humors embodies the essence of aesthetic meandering as tiny flowers and shells mix with buttons, pearls and delicate chains in a lapidary gumbo that mingles the treasures of the earth with the dream caverns of the psyche. None of this is practical, but it does recall the old Hindu belief that the gods created this world as a gesture of “lila,” the playful creativity that they regarded as the very essence of divinity itself. ~Bookhardt / Pareidolia: New Mixed Media Works by Shawne Major, Through August 27, Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., 525-0518;