Love it or hate it, when it comes to imagining what our favorite literature or graphic novel characters may look like, Hollywood pretty much has the most impacting say. The images it produces stick and linger on and on, in the cultural zeitgeist. But even then, these big screen heroes and heroines are fluid constructs, as studios continuously churn out the remakes. Long before some real estate developers decided to put up the unsightly advertising sign up on the hill, artists all over the world painted, illustrated, and sculpted out of religious texts, marrying the palpably substantial with the imagination of the faithful. Phyllis Green’s recent wearable sculptures, now on view at LAM Gallery, do not veer too far from this tradition.
Titled Walking the Walk, the works have been developed in 2014 while Green was the Fellow in Fine Arts for John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Amusing sculptures and slightly offbeat photographs present varying visual possibilities in which the Mundaka Upanishad passage is literally materialized. The excerpt from the ancient Indian spiritual texts speaks of the prerequisite rite of passage into the enlightenment. Designed to be worn, the cape, the head decorations, and the mobile structures are all fabricated true to the artist’s modestly small stature, making them exclusive and personal. The accompanying photographs on the wall, in which Green is posing “in” her sculpture, reinforce the idea that these are her personal interpretations of the texts. Viewers are free to imagine a head dress that would suit them for their own spiritual journey.
Aesthetically, Green’s sculptures exhibit the trendy colors of West Elm, the hip sophistication of Crate and Barrel, and the form and functionality of IKEA – just not the price. These are indeed important and necessary traits. A successful journey toward the enlightenment is incumbent on the aesthetic accessibility of the work and its mass appeal. No viewer wants to be made to feel dumb. Such a worry can be left at the doorstep when stepping into Walking the Walk.
Phyllis Green’s Walking the Walk is currently on view until Saturday, June 20, 2015 at LAM Gallery on Highland.
All images by author for editorial purposes only.