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Gravity and Levity



Evelyn Jordan's impassive, vaguely aboriginal, and almost life-size ceramic women have always had an uncanny presence about them. Although they have evolved over time, their consistency is near-tribal, like a clan related by shared DNA. Yet they are as elusive as those Amazonian Indians who vanish as soon as they are spotted, having been seen only occasionally since they first appeared sometime in the last decade. Consequently, it is almost a shock to encounter so many of them in one place.

They have never been known to congregate in such numbers before. What are they up to? A visitor entering the gallery may almost have a sense of intruding on a private ritual. Not that they are unwelcoming; unperturbed, they pay the visitor no heed, yet there is a quiet intensity with which they go about their business of being themselves. A figure called Violet, perhaps for her mauve-gray hue, stands in a corner as if watching over the rest. She wears an ornamental headdress, and clay medicine flasks dangle from a rope around her waist. Her features are gnarly, as if crape myrtle figured in her gene pool, yet her eyes are laconically alert and warily watchful under her heavy lids. And it's those eyes as well as a few other subtle facets of their otherwise craggy features that give Jordan's figures their aura of aliveness, their uncanny presence.

Abuelita appears more aged and matronly, thicker about the middle and maybe stiffer, from the looks of her walking stick. Like Violet and the others in the front room, she is standing near an altar of sorts. Arch/Altar, a group of five monoliths in a semi-circle, resulted from a collaboration of Jordan and Anita Cook, a talented ceramic artist in her own right. Bearing images of Himalayan deities and meditating children, and topped with candles and vitrines, it's a natural focal point around which a nearby Tree Figure (a tree-like woman) and Crown and Medicine (a woman with an antler-like headdress and flasks of medicine) seem to fulfill distinct, if unnamed, roles.

If the figures in the front room suggest a healing ritual, the Seated Figures in the next room appear to be meditating, and the focused quietude of their combined presence can be startling. It's hard to imagine that clay figures could convey something so subtle as a deep meditation state, yet perhaps because of their eerie presence, they do. It doesn't hurt that they're also as beautiful as they are peculiar. Taken as a whole, the show marks a rare gathering of Jordan's lost tribe, products of an arduous ceramic process and keepers their own sublime secrets of silence and wonder. As such, they suggest early, experimental female prototypes crafted from the first mud of creation before anyone ever even thought of utilizing Adam's rib, or what have you.

If Jordan's figures suggest dense matter imbued with a subtle spark of life, Beth Krebs' no less feminine forms at Carol Robinson are far more abstract and ethereal. Luna, crafted from gauze and cloth-covered wire and suspended from above, evokes a translucent female torso. The wires suggest veins and the gauze evokes pale flesh, and it floats like an apparition, or molted skin, something once intimate and animated, but now left behind.

Flesh Pouches are rounded, pale silk pouches dangling from an antique mechanism. Attached by flesh colored garters, they are silky and curvaceous, almost sexy yet spooky, like prostheses or implants of some sort. The mechanism -- an old piano armature? -- gives the dangling flesh pods a "mechanical bride" sensibility that is mysteriously alluring and also slightly creepy. Most ethereal of all are the Breathing Gravity pieces: heart, chest or nest-shaped enclosures woven from thin wire with interior chambers holding smooth, dark stones. Evanescent, they are barely, if beautifully, there, so the stones almost seem to float in space. Krebs says they reflect "an inquiry into a passage between what is internal and what is external. Here I consider the body as a translucent membrane, the locus of this interchange. I'm interested in how life experiences become part of a body's physical memory (as a kind of weight), and how that which is soft and vulnerable is opened to the outside."

Evelyn Jordan's Seated Figures sculptures have a meditative quality, startling in the pieces' focused quietude.
  • Evelyn Jordan's Seated Figures sculptures have a meditative quality, startling in the pieces' focused quietude.

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