That which is hidden has been revealed in La Luz de Jesus Gallery’s February exhibition, which features the works of Karen Hsiao (Miso), Jason Freeny, and the vintage occult and erotic photographs of William Mortensen. This is a curation of transparency.
Jason Freeny & Miso & William Mortensen
February 6, 2015 | 8-11 PM
February 6, 2015 – March 1, 2015
Feral House Book Signing:
February 13, 2015 | 7-9 PM
With Jason Freeny’s Molt, the dual renditions of iconic children’s toys being half true to form and the other half exposing their humanistic anatomy, we see a grotesque reality that is not the guts and skeletons, but the illusion that what we have been conditioned to accept is not the organic natural makeup of life, but the plastic veil of innocence. Not that I’m suggesting that you replace your children’s toys with a scalpel and an anatomy book, but at some point when we reflect upon the childhood archetypes that served to cultivate our consciousness, we should gauge our development by seeing through the surface level of those archetypal toys to the organic reality they represent. Sadly I presume that many look at their childhood toys and mentally revert back to a child’s mentality and reminisce about playtime. If only they made toys like Jason Freeny’s work this might be prevented.
Transparency might not be so obvious in the works of the late William Mortensen. Unlike the works of Jason Freeny and Miso, William’s works do not expose the biological anatomy of the subject, but they do expose the intellectual anatomy of consciousness. Many of his works are based on the occult, which means that which is hidden. Dissection was condemned by the early Catholic church, and yet, had not artists like Donatello and Michelangelo, as well as many anatomists and scientists done so, then art and science would have hit a glass ceiling. History has a way of emancipating people from hell and canonizing them as saints.
In the works of William Mortensen, who created works quite controversial for his times with such technical innovation that most artists today would sell their soul to imbibe, the history that we learned in school, the way we reminisce of the past or dream about what it must have been like is somewhat corrupted with a reality check. Like the plastic molds of Freeny’s toys being broken open to reveal flesh and bone, Mortensen’s photographs break open the glossy residue of the good ol’ times and reveal to us an underrepresented vision seen by awakened people that withstand the ephemeral veils of the decades. These people shown in Mortensen’s work are people that you will not just discover in his time, you will discover them hundreds and thousands of years ago. You’ll discover them today, because the truth, that truth which is hidden, is always discovered by wicked men who throw off the illusion of plastic casings.
Karen Hsiao, also known as Miso, has developed a world of creatures known as Misos, named after their creator. In the miniature oil paintings of her Cornucopia series, the anatomies of invented creatures are depicted like classifications of scientific illustrations, and yet rather than being placed in a cold negative space they are set in a bountiful environment like the still life of a Vanitas painting. Interestingly, many of the paintings included a magnifying glass that hung from the frame so that one could observe the creature, thus complimenting the concept of scientific observation on the vulnerable body of newborn life.
Like Freeny, Karen Hsiao’s paintings explore the external form and the internal organs. Whereas Freeny sculpted smooth surfaces, Hsiao extended the bodily dialogue with nature. The natural cycles of the seasons, the cultivations of vegetation from its seedling stage to full blossom, reflect in the lives of the Misos. The transparency is not only in the moisture and gelatinous flesh, but in the full circle of life incorporated all within one form and within one portrait. The division of life and death is as separated as the skin is from the blood underneath. In a conversation with Karen Hsiao I learned more about how she fit an abundance of life and death into her minatures.
Can you tell me a little about Cornucopia?
I based it off the Flemish old paintings. I liked the color scheme and the Vanitas feeling of life and death. I really wanted it to be more of an encyclopedia to the anatomies and botanical flowers. It’s more a harvest, a rebirth of the seasons, which is why the colors are pretty bright—with some winter colors and some spring colors. It’s really based off the seasons and the harvest.
I have a feeling that this is not necessarily the content of 16th Century Flemish paintings.
No. My older work was strictly anatomy and nothing else of my Miso creatures. All these creatures I call them Miso, because I made them up. I love anatomy, I love jelly, gelatin so I wanted to paint them with flowers and more of a theme than just by themselves. Because when it’s just them by themselves it’s a little too gory and less universal. There was just one type of group of people that would buy that type of that stuff and instead I wanted to be broader. And I don’t want it to just be about death, anatomy, and dissection, I actually want it to be beautiful.
These frames are interesting, can you tell me about them?
All these frames are a five-year combination of going to antique dealers and auctions and estate sales. I had to dig through so much stuff to find that one decent frame. So it was kind of nerve breaking when I was making them because I wanted to make sure the piece represented the frame as much as the frame represented the piece. A lot of time I had to cut things apart and paste them together, or mix and match to make the frame look even better. So some of them are pieces of a larger frame.
Do you usually work this small?
Yes. Because I love miniature. I think they’re more intimate and they make you want to get closer. And I think an art piece should deserve that kind of love.
The subjects that you work with are very infantile.
Oh, because I based them off of puppies, and bunnies, and hamsters.
Did you look at the anatomy of dead puppies and bunnies?
Yeah, and it made me really sad. But the good thing is the way I create my characters is I can take different parts off different animal anatomies and throw them together to create my own, because they are my own characters I can make them however I want them to.
What is a Miso character?
In the early times when I used to create these characters I would combine herbs and animals together. So like ginseng—the way that ginseng grows—I would combine a rat baby with it. This show I made it more animal instead of the herbs.
I notice most of the titles of the works have to deal with the seed or blossoming. It’s about birth.
I don’t want people to focus on the death, I want them to focus on the birth of it. And some of these creatures aren’t necessarily dead, they’re just transparent. So you can see inside them. You know like those jelly fishes and those undersea creatures that you can see their whole anatomy inside. So they’re not necessarily dead.
Is that why you like gelatin? You like the transparency.
I like tactile things. I like the feeling of gelatin and the slipperiness, and the fact that I can see inside.
So you’re not a person who’s afraid to look at their demons.
No, I’ve kind of embraced it.
Is that what you want people to do through your work? To embrace their inner darkness.
Yeah. Because the darkness is already out—and it’s not dark.
Explain to me that point, because some people wouldn’t understand that statement.
I never found it dark, it’s hard to explain that if it doesn’t bother you. Everyone’s ideal of beauty is different as well. I like how things work—knowing the anatomy, knowing how the muscle works. Knowing how the organs function. That kind of excites me.