Sunday, June 9, 2019

Virtual Idylls: Botanical Videos by Courtney Egan
“A rose is a rose is a rose.” So said the 20th century American poet, Gertrude Stein. But is it really? The popular contemporary philosopher, Eckhart Tolle, says we should forget the name and just contemplate the rose as it slowly reveals its magic. Stein presaged conceptual art, and Tolle recalls modern physics and ancient mysticism. Conceptual and mystical notions appear in this  “Virtual Idylls” expo of video projection art by Courtney Egan.

The magnolia flower in “Repository,” right, might initially recall Gertrude Stein's rose until we see it slowly, gracefully unfolding to reveal its magical presence. Like a mandala made of moonlight, it is clearly a living thing with a shimmering life of its own. That aura of magic running through Egan's oeuvre can be unforgettable if seen in the right circumstances, as some might recall from the claw-foot bathtub filled night-blooming cereus flowers slowly blossoming in the dusky bathroom of an old house as part of a Prospect.2 satellite exhibition in 2011. The tub was real, but flowers, a time-lapse video projection, were light in motion. A somewhat reminiscent experience appears here in the slow-dancing cereus flowers of her mandala-like “Sleepwalkers” wall projection video, top.

A more conceptual approach appears in “Metalfora,” a wall video that dominates the gallery as you enter the exhibit. The flora suggests glowing wallpaper, but when triggered by motion sensors, they blossom rather quickly, reflecting the random, haphazard way people move around in a world where the need for speed makes true contemplation almost impossible. But another new work, “Self Fulfilling Prophesy,” above, takes us to the magical space-time of angel's trumpet flowers as they slowly unfurl. Here the projection includes a sculptural element in the form of replica human arms that seem to clutch serpentine strands of the glowing blossoms, echoing a scene in French surrealist Jean Cocteau's landmark film, “Beauty and the Beast.” These works reveal how Egan, a New Orleans native whose vision was profoundly influenced by her childhood experiences growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, transcends genres, boundaries and expectations. ~Bookhardt / Virtual Idylls: Botanical Video Projections by Courtney Egan, Through August, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.