Above, assemblage artist Anne Luther’s “Marianne.”  
Left Mary.

BAGS ...


When:  Through April 30

Where: The Frameworks Caruso Woods Fine Art Gallery, 131 E. De la Guerra

Gallery hours:
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tuesday to Friday
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Information: 965-1812

In the bag

ART REVIEW  By Josef Woodard





Walking into Anne Luther’s new assemblage exhibition at Frameworks Caruso Woods Fine Art Gallery, unarmed by knowledge of the show’s conceptual foundation, you might get a misleading first impression.
Luther is a skillful purveyor of the assemblage medium, intuiting the tricky balance of ambiguity and purpose when it comes to gathering found objects into art. Her latest batch of work brings variety and a discerning eye for color and texture, with winks of humor along the way. It looks like an artful grab-bag affair.
But, more importantly, these works are variations on a central theme. Quotations on the walls, which hint at the thematic glue, include “lose your handbag and you lose your mind.” Luther has latched onto the notion of the handbag as a woman’s repository of significant belongings and hidden agendas, a last refuge of secrets for a woman.

In her artistic statement for her show, entitled “Bags . . . you are what you carry,” Luther describes coming upon the theme after her mother’s death. She ran across an antique purse similar to one owned by her mother, which she’d seen and wondered about as a child. She quotes Carl Jung on the subject, who deemed the handbag “an archetypal symbol for the fertile womb, the shape, the darkness, the secrecy . . . All that is hidden away.”

Jung may be stretching a bit to make a poetic point, but the core idea hits home.
Luther’s whimsical and carefully conceived constructions spin off in nearly as many directions as there are pieces in the show. Her creations are given an added air of mystery with women’s names for titles. They become an individual personae, ranging from the antique miniature library effect of “Roberta” to the rampant nature motifs in “Danyel,” replete with a mossy exterior, bark and seeds in the gardenlike purse.

A broken clock is embedded in a shiny red model handbag against a black backdrop in “Margot,” a piece tinged by surrealism, whereas “Marianne” is a small purse shaped like a female torso. Eyeballs replace nipples and the purse is surrounded by rubber baby bottle nipples, shrewdly juxtaposing sexuality and maternity.

Other contrasting impressions liven up the work, as with “Anne,” a violin-shaped case filled with seashells, evoking musical and seaside fantasies.

In “Natalie,” Luther creates a slightly irrational but inherently nostalgic “impossible handbag” by creating one out of sharpened yellow number two pencils.  In “Barb,” a tiny bejeweled red purse sits in a display case on a pedestal, as if a prize gem and source of salvation — as hinted at in the accompanying sign “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS.” The itty-bitty glass, in fact, is broken. Whether because of an emergency or mere illicit coveting, we’ll never know.

Of the many assemblage works in the show, “Sherry” veers closest to the influence of the looming artist in this medium, Joseph Cornell. With a design akin to Cornell’s famed compartmentalized box works, this wooden box is fitted with a variety of minutiae, which are vaguely nostalgic and presumably precious objects.

Meaning is open-to interpretation, like Luther’s other secret-based art, but the sense of rightness and material beauty is there for the taking.