April 2009 Archives

Some Familiar Witches

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The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles has free admission on Thursdays, so The Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I took advantage of the policy to see their current Houseguest exhibition. "Houseguest" is a series of exhibits curated by artists. For this show, Los Angeles-based artist Francesca Gabbiani selected works from collections housed at UCLA.

I didn't know anything about Francesca Gabbiani beforehand, but I was attracted to the theme of the show: witchcraft and sorcery. The collection was immaculately arranged in a small room, giving the exhibit a jewel-like setting. The works Gabbiani collected suggested a dreamy meditation on the themes of witchcraft and sorcery. As a viewer, I felt I needed to let my mind wander in order to make associations between the images.

Some of the artworks were specifically about witches, such as the one shown below, but many were not. I noticed that several of the works with witches had a similar composition to the one reproduced here: a witch is placed prominently in the picture, surrounded by objects and scenes associated with witchcraft.

In this image, one can see human and animal skulls, vials and potions on the floor and on shelves, animals playing instruments and acting as if they were human, and a naked woman standing before a cauldron.

A witch and her cohorts

One of my favorite macabre details in the picture above is the skeletal hand sticking out from above the doorway in the top righthand side of the image. I was also intrigued by what appear to be chicken feet belonging to the badger-like creature sitting on a bench in the foreground.

Many of the artworks on display contained some form of bird imagery, such as a raven or an owl. I marveled at the persistent association of some natural objects with womanhood. My favorite image from the exhibit, for example, was a woodblock print, depicting the surface of the water far out at sea. All that could be seen were lines of waves: rough, mysterious, implacable.

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