A collaboration with Theresa Anderson and Jennifer Jeannelle.
Every now and then we see art installations that defy definition, that seem to alter the criteria for what we know as contemporary art. This is the case with Rebecca Vaughan’s collaborative art work, “ Tricky Snarky Narrow,” created with artists Theresa Anderson and Jennifer Jeannelle. This is a complex piece, actually one of three parts in a larger installation entitled “Woolfe Mommy.” Constructed of largely found materials, it stands upright in layers, as a traditonal figure sculpture would, a tradition extending back to thekouroi of Archaic Greece, though this piece is about 14 feet high. It continues sculptural notations from Robert Raushenberg and Annette Messager. Old wooden freight palettes, broken furniture, bits of sewn fabric, growing grass, and deer antlers share intriguing space with contemporary objects such as a rotating beacon light, extension cords, and household objects.
The work has the feeling of an altar, one covered with objects of magical power: votive objects imbued with meaning, not by worshippers but by the artists themselves. A dozen or so light bulb cages filled with quotidian items: trophy figures, a dolls’ head, a condom, an empty cigarette pack. Also, fake green holly leaves, cloth painted on with quirky cartoon-like drawings of figures and words. PVC pipe rises up like flagpoles or small trees, decorated with embroidery hoops (women’s work?). Old table legs bound together with pink cloth reside unnaturally with a motion detector that senses the presence of the viewer and turns on a rotating electric light. The feeling is unstable, top-heavy.
Out of this cacophony of visual textures, one feature jumps out: groupings of deer antlers attached almost randomly, to posts and hanging above. You begin to see parallels: a drawing of a woman with a deer’s head, references to wild animals with threatening horns. On the top level, ten feet up, a woman’s white gown – the actual female presence of the “Woolfe Mommy” looking down on us. A protector? We know that the theme of the show in which this installation is a part, “Notes on Feeling,” refers to women’s lives, and the effects of violence. One cannot ignore the reference to Virginia Woolfe , the British writer lauded by feminists for her fierce independence and highly personal writing.
The figure in the gown at the top of the sculpture emerges as the savior, the goddess, rising from the ‘junk’ and ephemera below. Real antlers, along with parodic soft antlers sewn from fabric, seem to mix male and female power, obliquely but unmistakably. A large metal phallic bullet supports one corner of the wooden base. Like the ancient images of the goddess Artemis, the figure is surrounded by talismanic offerings.
This work leaves the viewer mindful of a certain female power: the power to protect loved ones, a commitment to peace, and to healing. Ultimately, one sees the ascending layers as steps leading up to a majestic goddess-like figure in the heavens, a symbol of female power and reverence.
(photo: T. Anderson)