Melina Ausikaitis’ artworks in her show “Fall in the Leaves” feel like memories: soft, indistinct scenes punctuated by bits with weight and form. Wall-bound works are derived from the multidisciplinary artist’s own family photos — of which we see only one, reproduced in the exhibition statement. It corresponds to “Williams Wedding 1985,” wherein chunks of ceramic anchor a scene composed primarily of blocks of blue-tinged fabric sewn tightly together. The seams function as outlines, subtle delineations barely suggesting figures and objects. The ceramics — a red-and-white case of Coke, disembodied hairdos of a woman and a girl, a corner of a black milk crate — are the only true details, the only pieces that seem solid and tangible in the midst of their ethereal ground.
Between “Williams Wedding 1985” and Ausikaitis’ corresponding photograph, we are visually guided into and through the familiar sensation of accessing memories. There is a difference between deciphering what has truly been imprinted on the mind, however, and what, perhaps, only seems to be because a photograph of it exists.
Further situating memories as something apart from the actual, the display of Ausikaitis’ four fabric and ceramic pieces reinforces her scenes as constructs. In “The Crucible,” loose threads hang from the corners of a theater vignette, while in “Mark 1973,” the sewn “corner” of a room juts out at an angle from the picture plane. In all, the assembled fabric is tacked onto bare, stretched canvases peppered with tiny, hand-sewn x’s, the substrate serving as a reminder that this, the memory, is not the illusion of representation or actuality, but a picture that has been composed. All the evidence of the maker’s hand — the stitches, the hanging threads, the ceramic appliqués — establishes these works as comprising a subjective, indeed a profoundly personal pursuit.
The exhibition shares its title with both a video piece (directed by Mike Gibisser) and the song featured within it (co-authored by the artist and Nate Kinsella). In the video, Ausikaitis re-enacts her own experience with hypnosis from over a decade ago. Through the course of the episode, the artist seemingly plays dead, her tongue hanging out of the corner of her mouth. She laughs exuberantly, and also sobs. The film is composed of several long shots, with Ausikaitis’ face giving the only evidence of the suggestions being conjured behind her closed eyes. At one point, she mouths the words to the song playing over the scene, the lyrics referencing the myth of Artemis and Actaeon — invoking the idea that seeking and glimpsing might not lead towards anything but oblivion.
Together, the video and Ausikaitis’ pictures provide an allegory for the pursuit of memory recall. While truth may seem like the objective or destination behind this pursuit, perhaps achieving truth is as futile as it is subjective. And while they might even trigger real emotions in the process, maybe impressions and suggestions are all that truly remains.