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Review: Mysterious Presence and I Wonder

New work by Kate Clark and Andrea Dezso



Kate Clark's humanoid animal sculptures at Newcomb Art Gallery instantly instill a sense of wonder. But is there more than novelty at work here? Entering the gallery is eerie; it's almost like a zoo where wild creatures with familiar human features cluster like family groups in a lobby. Three antelope with faces like restless young men gaze around as two bears wear expressions like British anthropologists looking for a lost tribe. A dazed zebra (pictured) suggests a fashion model who just downed a spiked drink, and some conspiring hyenas across the room look like they could be the culprits. By making their expressions more like ours, Clark blurs the boundaries between the human and animal realms and emphasizes our shared sentience. Dog and cat lovers already know the depths of feeling furry faces convey, but here Clark may be taking us back to a time before we put animals in factory farms and mechanically dismembered them into packaged food products. In this show, Clark reminds us of the extent to which animals are people too.

Our awareness of the primordial magic embodied in animals, forests and the heavens has long been dissipated by the distractions of technocratic urban life, but those sensibilities live on in ancient myths and folk art — including the dreamlike visions that inspired Transylvanian artist Andrea Dezso's layered shadow boxes, graphics and ceramics. Even her space aliens suggest mythic, folkloric beings. But for us her most emblematic and easily relatable works probably are her oversized, back-lit shadow boxes inspired by her native Transylvania as well as an adjacent series of illustrations that New Orleans Carnival designer Carlotta Bonnecaze created for the 1892 Krewe of Proteus parade. Both series reflect the dreams, myths and other psychic connections to the wild world that motivated the creation of so much art through the ages.

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