Boxing for Art’s Sake - Ann Luther, Assemblage
At the Faulkner West Gallery, S.B. Public Library,
through September 27.
icon Joseph Cornell did more than he’ll ever know for the world
where artists act as hunter-gatherers, culling found objects as an expression
of creativity and existence. A refreshingly subtle, if occasionally
overly star-eyed, Santa Barbara practitioner of box-based assemblage
art, Ann Luther, presently shows her wares tucked into the Faulkner
West Gallery in the public library.
In her statement, Luther points directly to the towering influence of
Cornell and his box-structured “cabinets of delight,” borrowing
his phrase. Luther explains that she discovered his work many years
ago and built up a collection of antique objects, papers, and artifacts
suitable for boxing. She does so with a refreshingly light, graceful,
and focused touch.
At times, her titles can be a bit new age-y and slogan-like —
“Except a Miracle,” “Just Be,” and “Forgive
Yourself” — more apt for bumper stickers than artworks.
They limit and specifically color the viewer’s appreciation of
pieces that might otherwise have a more intuitive meaning attached.
“Define Your Own Reality” is a poem portrait in material
form. A rustic wooden box contains an old stereopticon, half a mask,
a wheel for a nose, and a hand-held mirror for a neck, creating a whimsical
mutant identity. “You Cannot Have a Better Past” touches
on the fixity of one’s history, in a nostalgic confluence of buttons
and a vintage photo of intergenerational women.
Gravity and organization are more disoriented, as if in a world gone
both dizzy and wistful, in “Hang on Tight and Pray.” The
subjects here seem to be the slippery stuff of time, emotional disarray
and the clinging nature of hope.
One of the best pieces here is “What You Think About Expands,”
a fittingly loony little cabinet of delight with chaotic wires springing
out of a baby doll’s head, all carefully set into an elaborate
wooden box. The sum effect suggests a pint-size, nondenominational shrine
to expansive, nonlinear thinking. The Cornell connection rings true
here, as elsewhere in the show. Site and art match up nicely, as well:
finding the show, off to the side of the main Faulkner Gallery, has
a sense of discovery contained in the art itself.
Reviewed by Josef Woodard