Cherie Buck-Hutchison at eyelounge

DSC06625No art exhibition is perfect, but Ms. Buck-Hutchinson’s feminist revision of the biblical story of the Lot’s wife, Adit, is as close as one may come for many years. Adit’s Ode: A modest revolt is more than an art exhibition; it is an immersive, multi-sensory experience employing interdisciplinary techniques and a vast resource of media and themes that lead each visitor through an exploration of their own values and belief systems. The entirety of the show is constructed as a poem—including a poetic projection broken into three acts, such as is traditional in an ode, that correspond with the three sections of the installation.

The first room, Act I, is a vineyard of hanging IV bags with vegetation of various nutritional strains (strawberries, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, etc.) growing from within.  The artist introduces the first of many “prayer balls,” salt crusted spheres with medical syringes protruding resembling medieval flails.  Adit announces her arrival in modern times in an audio/video projection cast through the vines of plastic.  Escalating into Act II, we are confronted with hanging wall vessels crusted with salt, a young ram’s head filled with wheat grass accompanied by an IV drip.  Prominently displayed is a dismembered arm, again caked with salt, from whose hollow center protrudes a flutter of pink chiffon.  Adit’s ode turns to her fatal moment as she is changed and broken.  Stepping into Act III, the poem reaches its climax and Adit describes her leaving the worldly realm.  A bright white x-ray light blasts clarity to the small room and we are surrounded by the left over syringes extending from its, and nearly every surface.

DSC06624Adit’s Ode is a visual and literal poetic revision of a classic tale from religious mythology.  Feminists often employ revisionist methods to protagonize subdued female figures.  Buck-Hutchison’s work clearly reframes Adit as a tragic figure, oppressed by the male dominated culture of Old Testament tradition; demonized as the polar sinner to the male hero much like that of Eve to Adam.  The artist’s feminist approach to the religious subject is undoubtedly influenced by her rebellion against her own patriarchal religious upbringing.  She confronts the misogyny of biblical mythology head-on and poses the critical question, “What if?”

In the Bible Adit is only referred to as Lot’s wife, and she is only mentioned two times—once when she is turned into a pillar of salt, and later by Jesus.  A combination of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic texts provide her name and a fuller written history of Adit.  The inhabitants of Sodom were known to be inhospitable to visitors.  Lot had spent time with Abraham who influenced him greatly, especially with his generosity.  When two travelers came to Lot’s home he invited them to stay and offered them food, which bothered his wife greatly.  When he asked her to retrieve salt for the guests she went door to door asking for salt and telling her neighbors about the visitors.  Later in the evening a lynch mob came to Lot’s home and demanded he turn over the two travelers.  Unknown to Lot the two men were angels sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and they warned him to leave the city and save his family, but they insisted none of them were to look back.  Lot, Adit and their two youngest daughters fled, but outside of the city Adit turned around to look back upon her home and she was turned to a pillar of salt.  The salt represented the nature of her sin and became her demise as she viewed the wrath brought upon the twin cities.  Some texts state that was her punishment for seeing God himself.

In Buck-Hutchison’s research she found that the ancient Hebrew word for “salt” is very close to the word “angel,” which is problematic in its translation.  The artist offers a scenario where Adit’s poor health caused a heart-attack during a time of great stress causing her to fall towards the city and disobey the warning not in unfaithfulness but accidental fashion.  The transformation creates a new reading of the context in which the artist offers that Adit became an angel and now visits the 21st century, critiquing current socio-economic situations relating to food and medical treatment for the poor.  The contents of the exhibition could lead to an entire dissertation on religious mythology, gender issues, history/herstory, and modern social issues related to poverty and health.  The story Buck-Hutchison unveils is only the means to open the discourse.  She hits on so many topics that any single visitor can take away at least one eye-opening aspect, which makes this such a successful endeavor.

– by Justin Germain

Adit’s Ode: A Modest Revolt

Part One

I have moved through to now, to you.

The salt of a former marriage still clings

like halos around my ears. I am not the woman you

thought you knew. A form tossed up from the sea, distinct,

there are many. Did you beseech my sisters

as to where I dared to evaporate like angels?

I am Adit, Eldith, Lot’s wife, mother

woman, healer, daughter, ageless.

I have plaited roots, incensed over balsam.

What remains unknown when arms stretch through golden sundials?

Part Two

I know loss. My other daughters’ younger

faces still frequent my closed eyes. I paced the shade under our

pomegranate trees where we snapped summers

gone, mulled raisin wine, milling hours

into love. But the angel wrenched my arm

until I am a fig tree shimmying

caught between two needs. My eagle heart

is caged, talons splintering my chest as I implore

my people: My herbs! On the table – my Hawthorne berries!

I sacrifice money to the slick mud as I reach

squalling for help –for I taste my heart and see the blue in my buckling knees.

Part Three

I recall nothing more. The basalt

heaved by wind fuels a fire. I lasted

an hour. Now I anoint seeds on altars.

for what has fasting brought to pass?

I ask, who has salted these fields?

In what minute is a decision consummate?

Varied are the branches you have for yield.

Do not worry of me. Wind does not abate.

My eyes are gusts, my bones flux.

I have long left my crystalline matrix.

– Cherie Buck-Hutchison    2014

Lauren Strohacker at Hot Box

Strohaker 2nd domesticationBrightly painted jagged shapes on wooden panels of various sizes hung at random intervals and heights on the three walls of the gallery.  Some monotone with little detail other than the shape itself, some with multiple colors suggesting depth or texture.  One might initially say, “Oh feathers!” or even, “Oh leaves!” as identifiers.  In the center towards the rear of the space a single image placed on a pedestal at waist height to be viewed from above—a seemingly dead bird held by a latex-gloved hand.  Insight assumes that the shapes on the walls are definitely feathers.

The bird in the photograph, titled Second Domestication, is a rosy-faced lovebird “killed on impact by the invisible barrier.”  This victim of the evil magic that is the man-made window was part of a feral population of the species that spawned from domesticated escapees in the 1980s and made Phoenix its home.  Artist Lauren Strohaker studied the factors that allowed the species to flourish in the valley, mostly due to the artificial paradise created similarly to their native home in Southwestern Africa.

Strohacker defines the foundation of her artistic explorations as her realization that contemporary human interactions with animals are for the most part manufactured.  Suburban life produces artificial interactions in media or regulated experiences with living creatures.  As a Phoenician, she could not help but notice the development of land destabilizing the natural world in the name of human comfort and progress.

Using a spectrophotometer, Strohaker converted the hues of the rosy-faced lovebird feathers to interior house paint colors, which were applied to the cut shapes resembling the feathers themselves.  The final product is her take on reimagined domestic décor, a longer-lasting, and easier to control, rendition of the exotic pets themselves.  The work makes broad statements about the treatment of wild animals as commercial products, and the unforeseen effects on the animals when they are introduced to new surroundings and human encroachment.  Strohaker’s work also touches on the suburban need to fill homes with luxurious treasures from the far reaches, capitalized on by chain stores such as Target or Cost-Plus offering mass-produced exotic merchandise.

The body of work is strong in relation to the concept, although some of the cutout shapes are a bit rough and could use some finish.  If they are meant to resemble high end massed produced decorative works then a fine attention to detail would increase their sophistication in the suggested showroom.  Round-sanded edges and a high-gloss resin finish would make these pieces a hot item and cause a bourgeois wrestling match at Pier 1 Imports on Black Friday.  A few of the green monochrome shapes are very similar hues and they are hung in a row, which made them seem more like leaves than feathers.  More detail in these works along with separating them in the installation would have made them stand out for visual merchandising. The artist’s social statements are more important than the actual sales of the object in the commercial capacity, and they are bold if nothing else.

Strohaker

Artist Feature: Tammi Lynch-Forrest

This month I had the opportunity to meet with mosaic artist Tammi Lynch-Forrest in her Grand Ave. studio/gallery and discuss her journey to this point and her goals for the future.  Upon entering the space I knew this was not a “typical” gallery, or artist. Tammi has found her passion in mosaic.  She has poured not only her time and a significant investment into honing her skill, but from inspecting the work itself she has ingrained it with her essence.

Like many, I have not experienced much mosaic art, a fact that Tammi hopes to change with her presence in Phoenix.  I was immediately drawn to the intricacy of the work, perfectly cut shards of a plethora of materials ranging from glass and stone to precious metals—gold and lapis-lazuli—arranged into detailed scenes and forms.  She showed me some of the tools she uses to cut and shape the facets, and the planning that she goes through for each work.  This is not an art form for the impatient, it takes time, dedication, and skills learned through mistakes, trial, and error.  She explained how even some of the smallest works could consume weeks of labor.

    

The superb quality of the work she displays, many of which she created as tests or in workshops, is astonishing.  Then, she shared a revelation with me—she has only been practicing mosaic for just around five years!  In this time period she has traveled the world studying in workshops with some of the most celebrated artists learning the nuances and enhancing her skill.

          

She has recently opened this studio as her workspace but also as what she hopes to be a destination.  Her goal—other than selling her own work—is to provide educational workshops in the art of mosaic and expand the awareness of this traditional art form that is little known in contemporary art circles, especially in the U.S.

Tammi is on the verge of marketing her artwork and educational programs, with plans to focus on building her offerings this summer so look out for a fresh experience in the local art community this year!

Check out more at www.arizonamosaico.com

– Justin Germain