Through October 26, 2019
Erasure and diaspora — especially of Levantine peoples — have been themes in the work of Mary Ann Peters throughout her career. Instability around the Mediterranean has, sadly, given Peters plenty to process and address in recent years. The pull of the sea was especially felt in her previous show, “slipstream,” and in temporary installations at Seattle’s Oxbow art space, where her ongoing “impossible monuments” series directly referenced deadly boat crossings from northern Africa to Europe. Peters is more earthbound in her latest collection of paintings, drawing and sculptures, titled “traveler.”
In the front room gouache and watercolor paintings on clay board resemble faded and smudged sepia photos of abandoned structures, walls and wilderness — the path of the “traveler” who appears in the eponymous painting of the exhibition. Clay board is Peters’ surface of choice for these paintings and a series of “trembling turf” drawings at the back of the gallery. Indeed, there is much trembling in these images, comprising countless dashes of white ink. One can discern a rhythm in the static when one stands at a distance. Up close branching forms coalesce, then dissolve in the periphery as one’s eyes trace them to an uncertain source.
There is no solid ground for this “traveler.” Even the sculpture in the center room of the gallery is unsteady: a murky, sweating monolith suspended above the floor by a thin steel armature. For this piece, “impossible monuments (the gatekeeper’s shadow),” Peters suspends a tangle of jewelry in a towering brick of glycerin. Whether by bribe or under official rules (such as in Denmark) refugees seeking asylum must often offer the last bits of wealth on their bodies as collateral. It’s a queasy sight, one that elicits only a fraction of the dread experienced by those awaiting the “gatekeeper’s” pronouncements. In a time as jaded as ours, even that much is a feat.