Critics’ Picks

Shawne Major, Elysian Fields, 2010,
 mixed media, 53 x 45”.

New Orleans

Shawne Major

Heriard-Cimino Gallery
440 Julia Street
May 1–June 1, 2010

Shawne Major’s latest exhibition offers plastic-heavy sculptures that are installed like prized pelts of kitsch around this gallery. While her candied skins recall El Anatsui’s tapestried sheaths, these works serve up a heightened sense of chaotic accumulation. Scavenged from sources such as computer hardware and dollar stores, each wall hanging contains innumerable baubles: curlers, beads, acrylic nails, computer circuits, zippers, rubber snakes, and other miniature objects, which are stitched together coarsely and gracefully onto repurposed fabrics of feminine origins such as panty hose and wedding dresses.

Closer inspection reveals Major’s play with the mythological. Titles like Leucosia, Parthenope, Ligeia, and Elysian Fields evince Odyssean undertones, while universal themes of love, lust, immortality, and artifice are apparent in each work. The artist’s accrual of synthetic detritus not only a creates factitious gaudiness but also suggests that she may be trying to contemporize ancient myths. The sirens now seek their seduction through the allure of capricious consumerism, while Lamb, 2009, for example, playfully suggests fleeces––another Homeric device––only this time bedecked in pink.

Standing solo, Elysian Fields, 2010, the centerpiece of this show, serves as a reference to the Greco-Roman idea of heaven. This tiered work stacks up like cake layers but equally brings to mind a Babelesque tower. Whether through allegories, references to ancient sirens, or evocations of perilous journeys and the afterlife, here Major investigates long-standing dichotomous themes of all things dually feared and loved.