she's a changeling

October 3 – November 7 2015

the harts gallery is delighted to announce a transformative new exhibition that brings together the work of Claudia DeMonte, Julia Randall and Cecilia Mandrile: three renowned artists who examine the relationship between the female body and identity in unique and surprising ways. Reimagining the role of women in a world of flux, She’s a Changeling opens October 3rd from 5-8pm at 20 Bank Street, New Milford, CT.

In European folklore, a changeling is a baby or a child that is secretly left to replace another baby or child: oftentimes it was believed to have been substituted by faeries for one of their own. It was the child that didn’t belong, it was a mother’s greatest fear. This idea or threat of replacement, surrogacy or mistaken identity permeates the work of DeMonte, Randall and Mandrile—as they work in entirely different mediums, styles and narratives. All three approach the female body as fluid: as expressed or defined by change, evanescence or transformation. Consumerism, globalization, migration, fragmentation and corporeality are their driving forces. Colored pencil drawings, metal and wood fetishes, hand-made dolls are their methods.

For the last 35 years, New York-born artist Claudia DeMonte’s work has focused on the role of women in contemporary global society. Using a wide range of media influenced by her travels to over 100 countries, for DeMonte, objects act as surrogates for important issues in people’s lives. She’s a Changeling features a number of pieces from her Female Fetishes series: sculptural objects representative of household items commonly associated with women—among them irons, high-heeled shoes, a cake, coffee pots and handbags—that are painted black and densely covered with small pewter charms, recalling the milagros that provide protection against various evil spirits in Mexican folk traditions and in DeMonte’s own Italian Catholic tradition. Also on view is her bronze wall series Female Implements/Serving Pieces. Inspired by the elongated forms of Cycladic Art dating back to the Neolithic period, these prehistoric looking spoons, tongs, forks, and calipers reflect in their imagery the perceived notion that women are the caretakers of society. They also function as a self-portrait, the ancient household objects morphing into a type of mythological female creature wearing the iconic DeMonte ponytail.

For Julia Randall, “Drawing is my way of challenging our assumptions about corporeality, and addressing the basic pleasures and discomforts of being human. Although I often operate in the realm of fantasy, I use observation-based drawing and hyperrealist technique to suspend disbelief, and to create images that are sensual, surreal and provocative.” In She’s a Changeling, Randall presents us with a selection of hyperreal, brightly colored pencil drawings from her series Lures, featuring up close, larger than life mouths suspended in various—and at times, more than one—states of motion: speaking, kissing, beckoning. There is also Dandelion, a surreal, meticulously detailed 40 inch wide mouth blowing a colorful saliva bubble that reflects a mound of the flower in its late season stage of white seediness. She writes, “If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I believe that the mouth is the threshold of the Id. The mouth is the body’s critical site, where we kiss, bite, and eat; it is the portal to speech and meaning. We see the mouth and tongue all the time, yet they are also very private and intimate, simultaneously ferocious and tender.”

From her series Blown, Randall takes on other bubble imagery with an even more astounding exaggeration of detail: chewing gum, in a range of flavored colors, is blown into bubbles and captured in various stages of inflation, deflation and dissection. In its scale and hyperrealist detail, the gum looks fleshlike, meatlike, as if a close up of a part of the body or a piece of animal that has somehow been regurgitated. For Randall, “the viscosity, wetness and the exposed skin of the bubblegum echo the physicality of actual erotic experience…I often hear comments about how “realistic” my drawings are, when in fact, I draw using more detail than the eye will normally perceive. Lethally sharp pencils, a jeweler’s head loupe and many delicate layers of colored pencil yield three-dimensional illusionism. It is the persuasiveness of this visual language that creates visceral, surreal tension in my work, and compels my audience to consider their own bodies anew.”

Argentinean born, New York based artist Cecilia Mandrile presents handmade foldable paper dolls and handkerchiefs imprinted with several versions of a disguised self-portrait. These closed-eye faces are exposed to various stages of fading, evoking perhaps the visual challenges that she faced from an early age.

Since Mandrile left Argentina as a young woman, she has been “rehearsing the portrayal of impermanence.” As she moved from place to place, she began “performing and recording ephemeral installations, observing cities and their crevices through a portable reference: handmade dolls.” But her Quitapenas do not seem concerned about their non-belonging. Embracing fragility, these foldable paper dolls travel in a suitcase, open and close according to their new contexts. They fade, they age. Damaged as they are displaced from city to city, they may even disintegrate—and yet, they feel mended, when passing from hand to hand.

On view downstairs at the harts gallery is Mandrile’s installation Private Rains: 30 handkerchiefs printed with different translations of the same portrait present in Fragile Fragments (Quitapenas). The sightless self-portraits are printed in duotone that is subsequently dipped in water, causing only the black pigment to remain. The handkerchiefs are suspended by clothespins on various lengths of rope, as if in perpetual stages of curing. She writes, “Through the dual translation of visual fragments, I propose disjointed narratives that rehearse dialogues between ‘portable objects’ and ‘found places.’ Aware of the sense of ‘incompleteness’ experienced by displaced subjects, I document the constant flux of their imprint in moving scenarios, in search of a visual language that translates my perception of—and adaptation to—different realities as a migrant artist, a language that makes possible the translation of a wound.”