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3rd Ward’s massive opening exhibit, where Woman Inherits the Earth


–>Chip tells us about 3rd Ward’s inaugural show, which is a massive affair by three local artists who are very prolific.–the Artblog editors—————>

Philadelphia’s long-anticipated manifestation of the Brooklyn-based 3rd Ward is officially open. To celebrate the inaugural show of North Philly’s newest art center, the admittedly huge space is showcasing three artists in the exhibit, “Woman Inherits the Earth.” Obviously all three are female, and the title of the show is lifted from Laura Dern’s notable quip near the beginning of the film, Jurassic Park. In fact, the vinyl decal at 3rd Ward is even done-up in the same fossilized font as the film’s title, but that’s where the similarities end and things start to get wild…

With 144 works combined, Emily Erb, Marcella Marsella, and Sabrina Small prove just how prolific they are. Each presents work of quite different ilk, although the show as a whole mashes the styles together in such a way as to emphasize the common absurdity that runs through them.

Pop culture icons poked fun at in Marcella Marsella’s works

Marcella Marsella, "What Happens in Neverland Stays in Neverland."
Marcella Marsella, “What Happens in Neverland Stays in Neverland.”

Marcella Marsella takes brash and unrelenting stabs at pop culture with her seemingly endless march of drawings and portraits. One of the most frequent figures to appear in her pieces is none other than the King of Pop himself: Michael Jackson. From the gold-leafed “MJ Madonna” to “Ouija Board for Contact with Michael Jackson’s Spirit” to a clock which reads “What Happens in Neverland Stays in Neverland,” Marsella seems to insert Jackson into just about every feasible niche of the cultural lexicon, even depicting him breast-feeding his son. Many of these images are obvious mockeries of Jackson, who is often the target of ridicule, even in death. Some works, however, appear legitimately reverent toward him.

Marcella Marsella, "Portrait of Nicole Brown."
Marcella Marsella, “Portrait of Nicole Brown.”

Elsewhere Marsella produces a series of portraits on cutting boards, utilizing the stains, grains, and other textures of the used cooking wares as a way to accentuate her (non-Michael Jackson) figurative studies. These pieces seem nostalgic for their functional past, yet hang obediently in their present state as canvases for the likes of Nicole Brown Simpson and Lorena Bobbitt. With this realization, suddenly the kitschy nostalgia reeks of revulsion, and the red beet juice stains and knife marks take on an entirely new and disconcerting meaning…

Emily Erb’s dyed silk historical maps and art history lessons

Emily Erb, "Barbaric Migration."
Emily Erb, “Barbaric Migration.”

Emily Erb fills many spaces on the walls with maps. Using dye on sheets of silk she creates maps from antiquity like the “Barbaric Migration” leading to the fall of Rome or the more recent past in “Pennsylvania Railroad and Connections.” With no explanation as to why she chose the snippets of history that are presented here, these maps are merely interesting and informative. Their texture and composition is more palatable than paper, with a slight sheen that invigorates the otherwise straightforward cartography.

Emily Erb, "Geocentric Universe."
Emily Erb, “Geocentric Universe.”

In a couple of larger-scale works, Erb sets out to spectacularly tackle art, history and nature. She recreates Picasso in “Guernica Revisited” where she combines the famous scene (as with all of her work here, on silk) with contemporary and late-20th Century figures, newspapers, and scenes of war that even the visionary Picasso could have scarcely imagined. She does the same with Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and also displays the visage of the almighty dollar, caustically titled “American Flag.” Her centerpiece – in both location and sheer scale – is “Geocentric Universe.” This massive, walk-in, circular curtain has a central fabric column dotted with all manner of human and animal presence. The exterior sheet, which rightfully dwarfs us land-dwellers, resembles the deep, dark ocean, or perhaps the vastness of outer space. Erb’s gigantic installation is a reminder to us all that, as humans, our only possible perspective is an Earth-centric one.

Sabrina Small’s abstractions and embroidered icons

Sabrina Small, "Bird-Squid Attack."
Sabrina Small, “Bird-Squid Attack.”

Of the three, the most abstract work belongs to Sabrina Small. Many of Small’s pieces are surreal watercolors that look like warped fetal forms or genetic experiments gone wrong. She adds a healthy dose of the nightmarish to a show that overwhelmingly pays heed to the Zeitgeist as opposed to the subconscious. Where she does venture into the realm of the recognizable, her art is right on par with both Erb’s and Marsella’s, however. One group of square gold vinyl canvases depicts common objects held to some quirky, deified new standard: a wheelchair, a birdcage, and a Sunday-through-Saturday pill organizer. Small cannot really help herself, and still manages to test the waters of the unreal by throwing in a character dressed in an animal costume, spewing energy from her third eye. Where this artist’s renderings are strange, they revel in their oddness; where they are obvious and realistic, they are still invariably bizarre.

Sabrina Small, "Magic Pill Box."
Sabrina Small, “Magic Pill Box.”

Through a show as behemoth as a Brachiosaurus, three women prove their inheritance by way of their sprawling bodies of artwork. From the disturbing to the sublime, to the humorous and the mundane, this exhibit leaves no stone unturned in its paleontological exploration of social mores.

See more photos at Roberta’s Flickr.

Woman Inherits the Earth is on view through June 30 at the 3rd Ward space.