Critics’ Picks

Amy Nathan, Forever separated, forever attached (detail), 2019, acrylic on panel, acrylic and Flashe paint on hydrocal, epoxy clay, hardware, 60 x 46 x 3".

Amy Nathan, Forever separated, forever attached (detail), 2019, acrylic on panel, acrylic and Flashe paint on hydrocal, epoxy clay, hardware, 60 x 46 x 3".

San Francisco

Amy Nathan

Aimee Friberg Exhibitions | CULT
1217 B Fell Street B
September 13–December 7, 2019

Ted Hughes’s 1997 translation of tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses begins, “Now I am ready to tell how bodies are changed / Into different bodies.” Amy Nathan’s solo show “Glyph Slipper” presents drawings and sculptures that reimagine such changes, as well as the tools women use to transform and protect themselves in a misogynist world.

Lady Slipper (all works 2019) is an inky abstraction of hands turning into high heels, and hangs near Fingertip Array, which depicts a grid of fingernails painted bright red. In another corner of the gallery, giant bobby pins open up into right angles in the sculpture Flush, per se; the vertical segments are dark maroon and yellow-brown, like saplings stretching up to the sky, while the horizontal portions are blue and wavy like a river. These more contemporary-seeming works frame the back of the gallery, where Nathan has created a mythological landscape exploring the forms of control over women’s bodies. Forever separated, forever attached appears to represent the head of Medusa, who was turned into a snake-haired monster after Poseidon raped her, and was then decapitated by Perseus, who used her head as a weapon to turn people into stone. Once, after defeating a sea monster to save Andromeda, Ovid writes, Perseus wrapped the head in seaweed, which turned into coral by morning. Nathan’s interpretation of this story involved pressing seaweed, ropes, and shells into a rectangle of clay that was then cast in plaster and embedded within a wooden panel, creating a tangle of marks surrounded by white teardrop shapes on a terra-cotta-colored background.

Nathan used a similar process for Andromeda, pressing seashells and rope knots into clay later cast in plaster to map the titular galaxy. An actual rope ties the resulting tablet to a rock, alluding to Andromeda’s being bound to a rock until Perseus rescued her. Though their references are as wide-ranging as their forms, Nathan’s works exhibit a playful hand adept at using symbols to tell some of the oldest but still urgent stories of human relations.