Inside Out and Upside Down
Inversion at [AC]2
Descartes argued that the human body and the human mind are separate, but his theory never quite held up under close philosophical scrutiny. Given the structure of our nervous systems, it seems obvious to many scientists that the mind and body can't possibly be distinct—one can't exist without the other.
The possibility that we must have a soul distinct from our physical bodies, however, remains an attractive and popular belief. Throughout the ages, it's been a constant source of inspiration among artists of all stripes and theological backgrounds.
In an exhibit currently running at [AC]2, Leta Evaskus has created a beautiful installation revolving around this so-called Cartesian dualism. Her artist statement makes reference to some sort of physical trauma. Her installation, she tells us, is intended to provide visual representations of both the physical reaction to stress and the emotions and memories associated with it.
The exhibit is positioned around the central beam of [AC]2's exhibit space. In a rough arc, four lamp-like constructions dangle from the ceiling, each composed of three large back-lit double images of Evaskus' nude body. These double images were created inside her camera then scanned and printed on a substance called duratrans using an inkjet printer.
Captured on blinding, white backgrounds these abstracted renderings of Evaskus' body have an ethereal, angelic quality. A kind of tree of life tattoo winds through the mangled, occasionally unidentifiable limbs. In one panel, her two hands press against a bright white surface rising up into the curves of her slim arms like the necks of inverted swans.
When her face is visible, it appears strikingly serene. In one image, her cheek rests against her hand like a baby asleep. In another, Evaskus looks as if she's embracing and consoling herself. Several images are almost completely abstract although there's rarely any doubt that you're observing a woman's body.
The second element in the show involves two projectors and three gauzy, almost completely transparent white curtains. From one side, a projector aims black and white images of two hands, dancing and swirling around each other like drunken doves. From the other side, the second projector depicts the silhouette of the artist's naked body moving in slow motion across the fragile folds of the curtains.
When you first walk into the gallery, these images might trick you into thinking there's some other presence in the gallery. I kept looking toward the curtains to make sure I wasn't being watched.
In her artist statement, Evaskus says, "For me, the twisted bodies are a direct visualization of the emotional states [that she's attempted to depict]. The fragmentation is violent, a contrast to the ephemeral, soft bodies that float in an undefined space."
Strolling through this installation, I don't feel that violence. Inversion exudes calmness to me. The overall mood seems more reflective than tortured. Regardless of Evaskus' intent, the end result is a creation of rare and alluring beauty that plays with light in ways that are both aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking.
For millennia, light has been associated with consciousness and the soul. In Inversion, Evaskus has composed an attractive and original variation on that ancient symbolism.
Inversion, an exhibit featuring an installation by Leta Evaskus, runs through June 6 at [AC]2. 842-8016.