If art uses reality avoidance to tell us something about the very nature of reality, Katrina del Mar, in Feral Women / Filmed Portraits, her solo show at Leslie Lohman Museum’s Prince Street Project Space, reveals ideas of power and beauty along with the rainbow of the real and theater. She does this through a mix of her stunning photography and authoritative command of a personal vocabulary of pastels and paint on black velvet and black paper. She first gets at the idea of Feral as defined as “existing in a natural state” and “wild,” and then she takes you much further with the relationships all of the media present.
It’s an immersive, thoughtful, and electric mix, capturing the satisfactions of owning what the Feral is.
As you enter the show, a series of soundless video portraits (Filmed Portraits, 2016) projected offer a subtlety of light and captivating presence. Within these videos her choices are inviting, powerful and also subtle, showing an engaging mix of the raw, wild, theatrical, and fun that set up a sort of tone poem as you enter.
Down the hall, I could spend hours with the cluttered wall of snapshots as they run the full spectrum from the sensual to the poetic and from the theatrical to the real. Even before you see the individual images, the impact of the wall communicates something arresting, deeply complex and alive. One sees a snapshot of a make-out session (I’m sure that anyone who’s eye rests on this image is rooting for the “in the moment” enjoyment and good times to be had by this couple) and then the eye travels quickly over a few more images to settle on a shirtless portrait that seems to look right through you. As you take the time to search the emotion of the subject, the image stops you in your tracks.
These relationships found throughout the show are a pleasure to interpret. It’s always difficult to choose favorites but the black velvet painted portrait with figure reclining in a Clash t-shirt nails a complex ferocity, closeness, vulnerability and authority that simply comes alive. To bring life to anything is not easy, and Katrina nails it. This handmade image is next to a larger than life-size photograph portrait of Kembra Pfahler, nude in blue body paint and a giant teased out black wig, standing next to a life-size skeleton. It sets up a dichotomy between the theater of the photo and the alive-ness of the painted image next to it. The images both compliment and critique each other.
We now live in a world where opposing ideas exist concurrently in easily accessed media in ways we never imagined. Katrina has always been immersed in completely bearing witness to ideas of beauty that deeply challenge all too many. Her work stops you in a moment. We are all the better for what Katrina reveals as real to us.
Feral Women / Filmed Portraits December 9 through December 11, 2016