Looking Glass: A Monthly Post on Four Artists Who Caught My Eye • April/May

Lorna Simpson- I first saw Lorna Simpson’s work when I was a graduate assistant with the art gallery at the University of Maryland.  One of my first jobs was to help install a show, Terra Firma, curated by Terry Gips that included other favorites Kiki Smith, Faith Wilding, Barbara Zucker, Nancy Fried and Susan Brenner.  Seeing Lorna Simpson’s Wigs was a visual departure for me with her wall installation of lithographic images on felt.  Helping to unpack and install her work with fetishistic care was a thrilling experience.  Her life-size photo-text works of women with their backs turned to the viewer were so passively aggressive and intelligent, they influenced and changed my ideas of figurative work and have been a strong voice in the critical dialogue of subverting objectification and the gaze.  Link

Anne Peabody- A couple of years ago as I was first making a research foray into glass, I came across the work of Anne Peabody.  Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Anne Peabody uses personal experience as the subject matter of her work.  Her piece, Wheel of Fortune, recounts a tornado that touched down near her home town.  Storm detritus, personal possessions as well as a purposeful goose are caught suspended in the enormous silver twister- frozen in the air of the gallery space of the 21C Hotel Museum in Louisville.  Her work has also been a part of another amazing exhibition, Glasstress at the Venice Biennale dealing specifically with international artists who work with glass.  I am especially intrigued with the body of work that was shown at Glasstress, and how Peabody uses traditional mirror-making with drawing.  Items she found on her Brooklyn street were recreated in a glass mirror sidewalk using silvering techniques and drawing- a very delicate and beautiful recreation of discarded items of an urban life.  Link

Tanja Softic- I met Tanya Softic at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts while we were both doing a studio residency.  She studied art at the University of Sarajevo before completing her studies in the U.S., and she currently teaches at the University of Richmond.  Her work with drawing, printmaking and large-scale paintings are beautifully layered and patterned.  When I first saw her works in her VCCA studio, I was struck by their scale; when I have seen works on her website, I’m often reminded of textiles and tapestry work- the way her colors are layered and patterned, she creates a surface both rich and varied.  Her Migration Series uses imagery of maps, power lines, strung beads, birds, and floral shapes.  The shapes of flowers bring to mind chrysanthemum patterns from traditional Japanese textiles, and all the imagery floats on a field built of neutral tones.  The space becomes activated by the lines and shapes that cross, meet and drift in a cosmic murmuration.  Link

Anna Hepler- I came across Anna Hepler’s work a few years back and fell entranced with the lines and materiality.  Her installation at the Portland Museum of Art centered around her work, The Great Haul, an enormous “net” made from strips of old tarps. This work reflected the local history of longshoreman and was visually poetic  as light filtered down between the netting creating a feeling of viewing from below the surface of the water.  Other work of hers also deals with line and systems or structures. Her use of metal hooked together to create a sort of cloud formation echoes the South American artist, Gego’s work and seem atmospheric and light from a distance.  A similar element is played out in the way she uses her inflatable series and her drawings.  The inflatables push between flat and dimensional- these works, made from plastic and tape, inflate with breath.  Her drawings of similar spherical works are made up of glowing lines on a dark and mysterious field, they remind me the most of the “presence” of The Great Haul.   Link

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