The ghost or the reanimated corpse that haunts a scene is thought of as returning to a place where it no longer belongs; it’s become an uninvited guest in its most familiar place. This three-person exhibition features paintings by Barbara Friedman, videos and drawings by Jillian McDonald, and mixed media works by Marigold Santos, work that meditate on these phantom drifters - at the end of all their exploring and now unknown at home.
Barbara Friedman makes painterly figurative paintings of unreliable narrators in scenarios that are unsettling both narratively and formally. Dislocation has always been her subject, which she’s recently expanded by making images appear to give her protagonists a sense of arriving, as if they entered the pictorial space as revenants. Friedman relies on the representational traditions that provide backdrops to her figures -- the places in which the dislocation occurs -- but is also skeptical of those traditions. Thinking as a skeptic, she toys with the received language of the landscape and portraiture traditions; working as a practitioner she lets the formalist concerns of modernist abstraction guide her, however much she interrogates those concerns.
In Jillian McDonald’s video, Freeze - shot in the Arctic Circle - there is little movement in a landscape haunted by forlorn eco-tourists and wandering northern pop icons. The metaphorical party is over - a lone clown drifts, party balloons list, zeppelins floats, and tropical plants dot the permafrost. In a photo series called Crystal Lake, rocks morph into crystals, an orb appear in the trees, water shines, and there is an uncanny mirroring of the natural world. Drawings of drift ice confound negative space as the ice itself is suspended like strange ghosts.
Marigold Santos explores the ways in which ideas of self-hood can become multiple, fragmented, and dislocated and then reinvented and recreated through a reflection of movement, migration and change. The imagery within her interdisciplinary work consists of elements that reflect on the notion of a self that is plural and in-process, and takes place within the realms of the otherworldly. Persistent in her work is the reference to the creature of fear in Filipino folklore known as the Asuang - a supernatural shape-shifting witch and ghoul who has the ability to self-sever. In her narrative, the Asuang speak not of malevolence, but of lived experience, self-awareness, transformation, and empowerment to celebrate and embrace plurality and fragmented identities.
For five hundred years exploration has meant new territory, with all the connotations of discovery and excitement but also of conquest and exploitation. The ghost stories in these works sound a different emotional register as they bring their figures back to explore what Ralph Waldo Emerson calls “the near, the low, the common” – or what would be near and low and common to these poor visitors if only they still existed.