Thursday, May 21, 2009

A small review of a big show

When you enter Leslie Hinton's exhibition you really do ENTER it. The barrage of colorful, crazy stuff stuffed into Gallery 80808 embraces the visitor, although some of these funky creatures stacked on the floors and dripping off the walls have sharper fingernails than you'd think.
Hinton has been toiling away at the University of South Carolina art department as a master of fine arts student. She's studying ceramics, but the works in this installation are also made of scrap wood, fabric, paint, paper plates, ballpoint pen ink, balloons, glitter, a medical model of an almost full-term fetus, her late father's work identification badge, and cupcake sprinkles. Depending on how one counts, the show has about 100 pieces.
The central area is occupied by a half dozen large ceramic forms connected to the figure. Some have discernable torsos and heads, others just head. A few sport arms and legs. Most are a mix of materials.
An entire wall is a kind of homage to the old-fashioned dolls that had china heads and arms attached to soft bodies. But these heads are often much larger than bodies and sometimes the head hardly exist ‑ as if they've spent all their time thinking about how to make themselves bigger and softer and more appealing to a child.
Colorful fat ribbons suspend puppet-like a group of squishy creatures. They dangled from cut-up paintings mounted on the wall. You can only see the paintings by lying on the floor, which at this point in the journey might be a good idea.
The show turns a corner with a grouping of houses looking storm ravaged and occupied by traumatized figures. These pieces are darker in content, form and color. They're pretty broken up, glazed with drippy pink as if a candy coating was being washed away and a burned over, chunky gray-black.
This is a sort of autobiographical installation. That medical school fetus is in the belly of a ceramic portrait of the artist's mother. Several works are connected to the recent death of the artist's father and the show culminates in a large sculpture about him that includes personal objects she retrieved from his car.
This is a fun, funky, and ultimately moving exhibition, falling somewhere between a fabulous dream and a nightmare.
It's up Tuesday. An opening reception takes place Saturday at 6 p.m. Cupcakes will be served.

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