There are places where Jessica Goldfinch might be considered over the top, and not just in the Bible Belt regions of the Deep South and Midwest. It is also true that works like her statue of a visibly pregnant Virgin Mary are not likely to grace local shrines anytime soon. Still, in a city where events like the Krewe du Vieux parade and Southern Decadence festival are hailed as proof New Orleans has returned to "normal" after the floods of 2005, not much is considered shocking. And that's a good thing, because it allows us to contemplate the deeper implications of her work rather than obsess over superficialities.
Goldfinch's Holy Card series is an exploration of religious, especially Roman Catholic, iconography rendered in Shrinky Dinks media. Beyond saintly wonders, she invokes modern scientific miracles in works like Immaculate Open Heart, a synthesis of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a modern surgical procedure. Mother of Swords is more Byzantine: a veiled Madonna with a Sacred Heart replete with connecting veins and arteries as well as six swords pressed to her breast, all rendered like a colorful holy card. It's a tribute to the power of imagery that this looks more like an actual historical artifact than the speculative imaginings of a New Orleans artist.
The hits keep on coming in another series that melds vintage fashion with anatomical infirmities. Figures from a 1950s Vogue pattern book appear modified with leg or neck braces, even amputated limbs, as seen in Envy (pictured); and lest this be taken for campy schadenfreude, it should be noted that Goldfinch herself endured a cardiac birth defect that went undiagnosed for 34 years despite frequent trips to the emergency room. Like the saints of yore, she relates to the suffering of others. Whether salvation is finally experienced in the form of divine or man-made miracles is ultimately a matter best left to the metaphysical proclivities of the beholder.
Jessica Goldfinch: Holy Cards and Other Versions of
Through Sun., Sept. 27
CoLAB Projects, 527 St. Joseph St., 566-8999; www.colabprojects.com