The beauty of art is that it has the ability to make visible that which is not. The Intangible Self, currently on view at Erin Cluley Gallery in Dallas, features three artists exploring what constitutes identity and personal narrative through diverse themes, including naming, ephemera, and time itself.
For fans of the musical Rent, the following is not a novel question: How do you measure one’s life? Time is forever fleeting, but always accumulating. Nic Nicosia provides a literal illustration of the many seconds that pass over the course of several weeks in AM / PM III, 9.9 – 10.17.2022. Each stroke collides together, forming two circular projections. In many ways, it is similar to the way in which we create our identities and construct our histories over the course of a lifetime, combining discrete events into a continuous narrative.
Lovie Olivia’s collages examine the many papers that shape one’s identity and story. Olivia describes her works as “constructed from multiple layers of personally significant imagery, paper refuse, literary notes, codes, dates, and other miscellany to arouse the viewer’s curiosity.” These materials are carefully arranged and layered in manila file folders. Olivia utilizes silhouettes cut into the folders and pages strategically extended from the sides to reveal the contained elements.
The artist notes, “the works thematically address medical experimentation, institutional racism, sexism and homophobia and are visual catalogs of my ongoing interests in black-queer-history-anthropology and literature.” Her pieces invite viewers to consider the many papers stored in mundane folders that have documented their lives, but also reflect on whose documents are typically preserved and utilized to create the histories that are deemed official and handed down through generations.
With Reclaiming the Constellations, René Treviño explores the power dynamics inherent in naming, questioning those who have the authority to assign names to the stars. Many of the most familiar constellations have names based in Greek and Roman mythology, but why have these names endured and been selected as the standard by the International Astronomical Union?
Treviño instead draws upon a cultural reference of greater relevance to him, the game La Lotería, to source names for the stars. While a re-imagining of the constellations touches upon notions of collective identities, asking which groups have the power to claim the universal, it also speaks to how individuals see themselves reflected in or unacknowledged by what is deemed universal.
The Intangible Self, curated by Krista Chalkey, is on view at Erin Cluley Gallery in Dallas through February 11, 2023.