Lost and Found Souls
September 7 to October 6, 2002
Deborah Masters and Karen Dolmanisth, two accomplished artists, transform Smack Mellon's spectacular gallery with their large scale, site specific installations. In a world where the absence of the sacred is so prevalent, their intuitive investigations lead us through an exploration of finding what is sacred in living and dying.
Enter Smack Mellon between September 7th and October 6th and you will be enshrined by an entanglement of black birch branches, silk slips and girls dresses embroidered with nails and shells, strung from thin cotton strings that rise to the full height of the gallery's 40' ceiling. Beautiful mandalas of obsessively placed bits of sand, stone, corn and crushed glass circle the floor. Majestic ghost-like figures with oversized concrete heads and flowing fabric bodies float to a 30 foot height, like guards watching over the highly detailed and intricate alters that line the walls of the gallery.
The two installations, Karen Dolmanisth's Theological Reversals and Deborah Masters' Lost and Found Souls, both take full advantage of Smack Mellon's unusual cavernous gallery space. Originally constructed as a foundry in the mid 1800s the building became home to a spice grinding company in the mid 1900s. A think layer of cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg still veil the massive wood beam structure, leaving a strong scent hanging in the air. This history adds a serendipitous layer to the multidimensional work of Ms. Dolmanisth and Ms. Masters.
Karen Dolmanisth - Theological Reversals
Mandalas of sand, stones, broken glass, bones, yellow corn, nails, shells, discarded bottles, feathers, test tubes, kitchen utensils, knitting needles and tiny baby shoes filled with nails and berries circle the ground. Baby's dresses, women's slips and evening dresses embroidered with shells, nails and forks hang like ghosts in the still air. Violence and decoration, beauty and beast. Are they floating or falling, arrested in space or in memory? Karen Dolmanisth's obsessive installation depicts the spirit of woman rising, floating and resurrecting.
Dolmanisth's work is about witnessing and experiencing various forms of oppression with the hope that these things will change, and that as human beings we will each do our part to change and heal the human imbalances and abuses of power. "I depend on the constant making of art, and of making new and appropriate art forms; of expression to channel higher, deeper truths, realities, meanings, and mysteries; of existence to myself, my culture and time; and to transform and to safely integrate the existence of histories, and present embodied study and information of the horrors, the great sadness, the imbalances, and the traumas of human separation from the Creative Source that exists to such tragic proportions in our current paradigm."
Deborah Masters - Lost and Found Souls
Masters' Altars create an atmosphere of sanctuary with a dense mass of objects, icons and idols from many religions and belief systems. She takes us beyond the examination of one religious or societal structure into a discussion of community, environment, spirituality and worship from ancient religions to present day cults.
Lost and Found Souls is a group of altars, hanging "ghosts", and freestanding sculptures exploring grief, lost life, the nature of someone never known, periods of great happiness, cultural phenomena, and our society's misguided dumping of chemicals on the environment. Master's Greek Orthodox family origin, her childhood years in Pennsylvania, Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico, her travels through Central America with her mother as a young girl, and her college studies of Medieval and Byzantine Art all inform this body of work.
Each of the 15 altars explores a different narrative: Twentieth Century Icons is a representation of 20th Century lack of spiritual belief, depicting current trends that fanatically replace religion; Science and Technology speaks of positive modern technology and simultaneously berates the use of earth-toxifying chemicals; 223 Water Street tells the story of the destruction of a loft building and loss of homes; Catholic Women's Altarincludes objects collected by women at church or on pilgrimages; Pennsylvania Childhoodand Mexican Childhood explore Masters earliest years; the Power Woman Altar and the Machismo Altar are explorations of the trans-migration of myth from Africa through the Caribbean to Mexico, New Mexico and Texas and of the pagan adopted accoutrements of the church. Fathers and Marriages is a search for her father, and the lost souls of her husbands.
Master's Altars are comprised of hundreds of objects, many made by the artist. These include found objects and devotional artifacts, icons of saints, relics, ointments, personal mementos, and drawings. Central to many of the altars are books Masters made to depict the theme of that altar.