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The warm-up for New Years

Faten Kanaan
Faten Kanaan
Familie Muller’s Ottoman Sled
Wood, Nacre, cuckoo clock pulley

The holiday season is just around the corner at Seraphin Gallery, with a float for Santa in the back room–Faten Kanaan’s little hand-crafted sled–and a giant mummer’s costume by Walter Benjamin Smith out front.

The sled is part of a group show in the back room, We’d Rather Not Tell You, a mix of work by gallery artists and others. (Our students at Tyler staged a show last week called Please Stop Talking, Please–pretty similar, huh)?

The front room has a solo show by Smith, The Transcendent Real, which, as Roberta mentioned here, continues his quest to break on through to the other side.

The suprise in We’d Rather Not… was Kanaan’s sled, a handmade beauty inlaid with nacre (i.e. mother of pearl) and looking like it came straight out of some Russian folk tale. The sled, with its woolen fringes and Germanic name, however, brought up Joseph Beuys and Nazis and the stereotype of self-satisfied German burghers. So odd in its sweet perfection, so out of place in the middle of a gallery floor, the object gave me the creeps at the same time that it suggested a million strange stories of escape, trade routes, and bad values. I loved it.

Phoebe Adams
Phoebe Adams’ digital drawing, Field and Motion#6, photo provided by Seraphin Gallery

Others in the back show include interwoven trees from Mauro Zamora, cut work from Sarah Daub and from Dee Nicholas, and work by Paul Laughney, Phoebe Adams and Joanne Grüne-Yanoff.

Walter Benjamin Smith’s giant kachina costume

Smith’s costume, with its eagle’s head covered with feathers and it’s 3-D rainbow crown of feathers and beads, is not so much mummers (ok, so I misled you) as shamanism–a giant kachina. And shamanism is what’s behind his drawings and paintings filled with loopy imagery and mysterious narratives. The loopier, the better, although I confess a gag reflex to the Native American imagery and the appropriation of rainbows and crystals for visions of color and light. But then, the guy is appropriating everything, from Gauguin natives to cave paintings to space monkeys, and sometimes the mergers are really great and reach a pitch of incantatory transcendence.

What with missing two weeks–more like three–of looking at art, I find myself playing catchup, wandering around in Roberta’s footsteps to see what I missed. Glad I got to see this work, which is up for another week.