Luther pulls purse strings
BY ANDREA ESTRADA
SOUTH COAST BEACON
Look inside a woman's purse and you learn a lot about her. From an archaeological perspective, a pocketbook reveals much about the owner's lifestyle and status. Sure, it holds a wallet, checkbook and lipstick, but dig a little deeper and you might find receipts, a matchbook, parking stub, journal and maybe even an old love letter. These offer insight into the owner's private world.
In an exhibit currently showing at Caruso Woods Fine Art, assemblage artist Anne Luther has created a series of 25 pieces based on the handbag as an identification of the woman who carries it. The exhibit, with pieces individually named for the women who inspired them, begins with an actual purse that Luther has embellished or a representation that she has fashioned out of found objects such as sharpened No. 2 pencils.
Each piece delves into the secret life — secret or otherwise — of its namesake, such as Emily Dickinson, which consists of vintage fabric stitched onto an antique sterling silver purse frame with a delicate chain handle. Ribbons burst forth from the fabric, each holding a slip of paper on which Luther has written the first lines from some of her favorite poet's work.
The miniature Barb features a tiny red jewel-encrusted handbag sitting on a shelf behind shards of glass. A small sign nearby reads, "In case of emergency, break glass." Luther describes this piece as a contemplation of people's addictions to things like handbags.
Judi, named for Luther's good friend, Judi Weisbart, consists of an antique globe with a round handle. A tassle hangs from the bottom and the entire piece descends from a Chinese net hook. Written on the globe are the words, "Feed me. Heal me. Save me."
For Erica Jong, Luther started with a squatty leather bag to which she added a stylized wing sculpture she found at an antique auction.
"All I became or didn't become is because of the women's movement and her book Fear of Flying" Luther said.
She honors Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, with a handbag fashioned out of a wooden birdcage.
"What woman doesn't feel trapped at some point in her life?" Luther noted.
In creating the pieces, Luther said she felt more like a conduit between the materials than their director.
"The objects talk to each other," she said of the process. "I don't make them fit. They just come together."