Critics’ Picks

Helen Altman, You Can Never Go Home Again, 2004, engraved found turtle shell, 2 1/2 x 5 x 7".


Helen Altman

Galveston Arts Center
2127 Strand St
August 23–October 5

Bent on metaphor, Helen Altman makes art that transforms the objects of our affections and produces works that exist in a universe all their own. Her confabulations are process-based without being mired in process itself. “Natural Concerns” presents the artist’s work of the past ten years. The show seems evidence of a compulsive personality, one that is oddly heartfelt and meticulously concerned with the value of found materials.

Altman is perhaps best known for her drawings of exotic animals. Created on dampened paper with a blowtorch, these brown, hazy visages sustain a reverence for the subject while they threaten to fade into the ether, as if they were portraits of endangered species. Another work, Dog’s Kitty, 2005, consists of a found, handcrafted pet toy mounted on a baby’s blanket to create a strange tableau of mixed sentiments; it is hung reverently on the wall. Altman’s choice of materials ranges from dental floss woven into rope to moving blankets (used as canvases) to an empty turtle shell engraved with the melancholic phrase YOU CAN NEVER GO HOME AGAIN. No matter the chosen medium, Altman has a savvy way of infusing her emotional link to objects with a universal understanding of what it means to feel affection for one’s surroundings. The results are as familiar as they are unique.