Sunday, May 26, 2019

Good Family: New Work by Ruth Owens, Katrina Andry and Porscha Danielle

Now that her children are grown up and out of the house, doctor turned artist Ruth Owens has been feeling reflective. A young man dating her daughter spoke approvingly of her “good family” status, which Owens found ironic since she grew up in what, in America, was a  “marginalized family” with a white German mother and African American father. They met when his army unit was stationed in post war Germany, but the disparities seemed greater during stints in U.S. states where mixed marriages were illegal in the 1960s. Ruth grew up, became a doctor, and married a doctor. Their children look like all-American kids, hence the irony of looking back on such dizzying contrasts. Many of her works in this show focus on where it all began: her Creole German childhood in Augsburg and Heidelberg. Her large painting, “Good Family,” top, of her and her mom, father and younger brother, says it all. Her mom looks very German, but the others are clearly not, yet this view of a mom looking after playful kids conveys a universal humanity that knows no boundaries.

“Swingtime” portrays a little girl lost in the simple ecstasy of the swirling world seen from a swing, and her “David and Sweet Ann,” portrayal of her brother and a childhood friend, flesh out a worldview that is familiar yet filled with contrasts -- as we see in a film Owens crafted from her parents' early home movies. Here dreamlike scenes of Creole and German white kids at parties celebrating events like Fasching, the German Mardi Gras, further explore the contrasts between universal childhood joys and fraught cultural norms.

In an adjacent space, some quietly provocative, deceptively innocent looking new works by Katrina Andry, for instance, "I gathered You Up," left, that are very unlike the large, precise and socially incendiary woodcut prints for which she is known. Nearby, a fascinating, yet impossible to describe, video collage by Porscha Danielle rounds out an expo that skillfully weaves empathy and challenge into an unexpected visual tapestry that transcends no end of traditional and perceptual boundaries. Good Family: New Work by Ruth Owens, Katrina Andry and Porscha Danielle, Through June 2, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980.