We're toast. No, wait, I take it all back. We were toast a couple of weeks ago when the American economy fell into a black hole in space, but lately there have been a few stray rays of sunshine beaming through the clouds just as they did when saints appeared in Renaissance paintings. On second thought, those rays may just be laser beams scanning the skies for any stealthy Iranian or Pakistani missiles that might be out there. Or then again, maybe they're really signs of modern-day miracles like the image of the Virgin Mary that appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich in Florida a few years ago. We live in a truly miraculous age when anyone with a frying pan " or a laser " can be an instrument of divine intervention. So says Patrick Lichty, whose Reality Principle expo at Barrister's features a gallery of saints and sinners laser-etched into Wonder bread.
A longtime Baton Rouge resident who is currently a professor of interactive art and media theory at Columbia College in Chicago, Lichty is intrigued by the power of faith-based notions of reality that have become so prevalent in America in recent years. That grilled cheese sandwich said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary was actually 10 years old when it was sold for $28,000 on eBay in 2004, and we can only wonder which was the greater miracle: the somewhat ambiguous image or the jackpot final bid.
We obviously live in a very special place and time, and if a frying pan can produce miracles on toast, just think what a laser might do. Ever the go-to guy for the can-do American spirit, Lichty set about exploring how technology could be used in the furtherance of revelations and, several loafs of Wonder bread later, this is what he has to show for it: a few dozen scorched but often recognizable images of the famous and not so famous, on toast. Not only is there the Virgin Mary and Jesus, there also is Buddha, Lenin, J.F.K., Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain. Technological wizardry has also led to significant cost reductions per unit. Not only are these images clearer than the grilled cheese variety, they can be had for a mere $300 a pop, a balm to the weary consumer in these financially troubled times.
Despite his recent success at harnessing technology and spirituality in the cause of human progress, Lichty has moments of doubt when he wonders if an 'image of Elvis on toast, courtesy of a 50-watt laser cutter, can stand as proof that I am in ineffable communion with the King?" But doubt, too, is traditional. As he puts it: 'Perhaps I have experienced a crisis of Faith. Maybe I do not believe in Miracles; perhaps I have lost faith in Reality. However, I do believe in Wonder; and that's a Reality I can believe in."
More techno wizardry appears in Christine Catsifas' Territories at Good Children Gallery, a series of impossibly compressed mountain landscapes, old Ansel Adams and National Geographic photographs inset with strange lettering. A former New Orleanian now living in New York, Catsifas is an 'information architect," a designer of digital user interfaces, and this series of collages continues her longstanding semiotic explorations of space and sound. Well, the sound is implicit " those strange letters are actually pop song titles spelled out in Greek alphabet characters reconfigured with a techno-minimalist twist. Ultimately, the whole show may be Greek to anyone not schooled in the past 40 years of semiotic theory, but at least those encrypted song titles lend a redeeming hint of mystery, a sense of hijacked American pop culture entombed in two-dimensional Rosetta stones in an alien cybernetic universe.