She’s Not Here, on view through January 26th at VERY, features work by New York-based artists Heather Rowe and Meredyth Sparks. Although the artists work independently, in this installation their collective works propose an eerie narrative rooted in domestic nostalgia and question our sense of reality. Through sculpture and a video projection, Rowe recreates the story of a supernatural haunting of a woman in the 1970’s—which also became the basis for the 1983 horror movie The Entity. Sparks employs reconstructed sculpture and cut and sewn digital paintings that fracture our perception of space with their shapes of flat color and conscious reproduction of illusion.
What makes this installation most intriguing is not just its compelling material nature, but how the artists create a surprising sense of double entendre by offering the best of artistic artifice and the allure of the horror movie. The pretense of domesticity is cunningly reinforced by the gallery’s living room area alongside the installation’s homey references. Upon entering through the gallery’s house-like door, the installation is directly in front of you, and a sitting area is to the left with two couches and a coffee table. Large windows overlook the street and natural light pours in. The four works are smartly set into a fabricated corner of the space, with a painted brick and a clean plywood wall acting as backdrops. A low platform, painted black, is squarely aligned several feet from the two walls. This becomes a secondary floor functioning as an area rug—providing a dramatic stage for two independent sculptures that become the lead actors.
Set on this stage is Spark’s sculpture “Figure Five. The Baroness’ Screen,” inspired by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, an early participant of Dadaism, and Rowe’s “The Entity (Red Mirror),” is a reassembled red mirror with multi-faceted glass panes suspended halfway on two metal poles that reach from the floor to the ceiling. These protagonist sculptures become stand-ins for the two inspiring women, and perhaps the two artists themselves. The mirror and reflective panes of glass in “The Entity (Red Mirror),” are sliced and rearranged in juxtaposed planes so that one’s reflection appears and disappears. In the moment of recognition, the viewer’s reflected figure becomes both the haunted woman and Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven. In “Figure Five,” a long black evening gown surrounded by a draped white lattice screen, turns its back to Rowe’s mirror sculpture. The gown’s headless form and magic mirrors’ reflections acknowledge yet ignore each other: a simultaneous absence and presence.
Both Sparks and Rowe use deft sleights of hand with their Illusion of digital details. Like the deep space of a Vermeer or the flat space of Indian miniatures, they allude to a virtual and literal collapse of reality. In “Extraction (Mauve Grid/Dresser: Redux),” Sparks recognizes the artificial depth of field of photography and the limits of our perception. The cut-out window revealing the plywood wall behind and the digital exaggeration of the line patterns folding in space do just that. From a distance, the flop of the lattice screen in “Figure Five,” challenges our expectation of materials. Under close inspection, the digital reproduction of the screen’s hinges and details confirm the illusion. Rowe’s superimposed arc of light, repeated in her video projection, “Entity (Recreation of Documented Phenomena),” acts as proof of our complicity in her orchestration of the haunted fiction. In a split second, a woman’s silhouette is seen through Rowe’s reflective glass and mirror sculpture. This disappearance, simultaneous with our reflection, questions the validity of the woman’s supposed haunting and becomes a metaphor for a vanishing female identity. The entity lies in this multiplicity.
VERY will host an event with the artists on Friday, January 26, from 6-10pm. VERY is located at 59 Wareham Street, Boston.