Friday, December 12, 2014

Kellë McLaughlin at Fulcrum

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Dec. 11, 2014

"Stag and Moon," wood lock print by Kellë McLaughlin
If you haven’t seen Kellë McLaughlin’s art, which I had not until this week, you really should. Her “Bestial Mirrors” at Fulcrum Gallery is a skillfully presented mythology or bestiary of imaginative and fierce imagery. In bold wood block prints and even bolder ceramic sculptures, McLaughlin creates hybrid creatures with animal heads and human bodies.

Her ceramic busts include a wolf, a tropical fish, and a snow monkey in dark, brownish-bronze or black ceramics with gold highlights, each with a naked woman’s torso. The wolf with its wide open mouth and sharp, gold-tipped teeth is frightening. The monkey is almost comical and somewhat sad with red hair framing a face that looks like one of the apes from “Planet of the Apes.”

In the back gallery there is a wall of crows, which is a most beautiful installation. The birds sold individually and completely sold out at the opening. I’m happy for the artist, but it is a shame that the installation had to be broken up as it works so marvelously as a single work of art. They are like taxidermy crows not mounted on boards but breaking through the stark white wall. They really should be seen as a group while that is still possible.

Along with the ceramics in the front gallery is a suite of nine wood block prints of similar mythological animal-woman creatures in heraldic designs. These remind me of both coats of arms and illustrations for Grimm-like fairy tales. All but two of these feature circular formats framed by various objects, creatures and other decorative elements. One of the few without the circular motif, “Rooster & Magnolia (Closure),” has instead radiating black and white rays like the rays of sun on Japanese flags.

Tigress & Snail” is the only one not in black and white. It is in a purple so deep that you have to look closely to see that it is not black. Displaying a touch of humor, it is a tiger with a woman’s body bathing in a stream while smoking a cigarette. Also displaying a touch of humor is “Crow & Beetle (Murder of Crows),” which includes an Escher-like flock of crows.

The artists writes: “There is a relationship between animal and humankind that is overt and undeniable. We share innate qualities and characteristics that reveal both the civil and savage nature within beast and man. My work accentuates this relationship not only in its base form but also on an intimate and personal perspective. Each piece reflects an individuals’ introspective persona that is then displayed in the public eye. Every person creates a bond with a particular beast, whether consciously or not, that is perceived to represent our own persona. We glorify ourselves through the eyes of that animal within, using it to justify our deeds and desires, both condemning and exalting it when we feel the necessity. What I strive to do is bring forth an awareness of the light that we shed on the beast within ourselves, our daemon, and why.”

These prints and sculptures are skillfully executed and will give you a lot to think about and relate to — perhaps even in ways you would rather not.

Bestial Mirrors, noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and by appointment, Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520]

Photo: “Stag & Moon, (Moonlight)” limited 1st edition cherry woodcut print, by Kellë McLaughlin

No comments: