The Unforgotten: New Work by LaThoriel Badenhausen
LaThoriel Badenhausen presents an oasis of metaphors and symbols created with found objects that have been altered, deconstructed and re-purposed into paintings, drawings, sculptures, embroideries and installations. All materials used have been previously discarded as useless, but then rearticulated by Badenhausen, who utilizes the aesthetic of bricolage to affect the imagery in her work while establishing a new discourse around mass-produced objects. Bricolage consists of assemblage and collage, a method that the artist grew into when living her youth in rural Minnesota, a site of scarcity where needed objects were created from whatever was at hand. LaThoriel Badenhausen’s intricate art pieces on view in this show create a field of associative dreams by shifting objects from their literal, utilitarian function into a series of vintage tropes that evoke feelings of nostalgia.
The artist’s sculptures become mini-dioramas of curiosity and desire, assembling found objects in a way that reconfigures the mundane, thrift-store product into something that is unknown and nearly exquisite. “Adam and Eve,” for instance, features a plastic green apple suspended on a hook that hangs before a gadget-filled hand, open for the taking. Whereas “Frei,” is far more reductive and features a large sheet of yellow paper bending around a light green wastepaper basket, while a red vinyl record leans against both objects to complete this piece whose title means “free.”
The suggestion of free association continues throughout a series of objects that are installed in front of a corresponding afterimage, appearing in the form of a painted reproduction. “Banana and Banana,” consists of a plastic banana that rests atop a fabric-covered stand while attached to half of an animal’s jawbone. This piece echoes 17th-century “vanitas” paintings that depict flowers and fruit with skulls, suggesting the beauty of life that also goes nowhere. In this case, the painted representation shows more colors suggesting an idealization of this sculpture. This occurs again in four additional pieces titled “Candy dots and Candy dots,” “Soap and Soap,” “Tea Cup and Tea Cup,” and “Thora and Thora.” At no point in these pairings does the artist let one’s attention move beyond the bounds of these relationships except for “Flyer and Flyer,” – an operative pun also seen resurfacing in the various texts that appear throughout the wall installation titled “Period Piece.”
LaThoriel Badenhausen effectively hollows out the mundane and successfully breaks down pluralism. If mass-produced objects function as symbols of mass communication, then Badenhausen has accessed a unique language that never repeats itself, setting her work apart from the confusing detritus of polyphonic production. “Praying Marilyn,” and “Leaping Marilyn,” both combine a miniaturized bust of the film-actress Marilyn Monroe, an icon of female beauty. However the artist sets this famous visage within oversized stuffed figures that animate and transform this personage into one of frivolity and vulnerability. Likewise the table installation titled “Makeup,” comprises a series of lipsticks and pastel-colored bullet casings while “Pink Sculpture,” appears as both a hat and a corset. These juxtapositions affirm the evolution of personal identity out of confusion, an equivocal space where two different meanings render nothing but ambiguity.
Fashion and beauty appear as vintage concepts in “Godly Woman,” a cream-white silk shawl with pearls embroidered evenly throughout. A sense of mystery continues in “Conceal,” a sculptural installation that consists of three components: an ornate red jacket hanging on the wall, in front of a tall piece of folded yellow paper and a red pot of fake fruit. The notion of artifice resurfaces in a 36-inch wall installation titled, “Light Paradigm,” that consists of torn jewel representations from Cartier, Christie’s and Sotheby’s catalogues. In place of the gemstones, the artist inserted small stills from fairytale films. However the precious stone cut-outs appear in an elegant piece titled “Sichoo Curtain,” that suspends textures and images across a thin white-veiled surface.
The stack of Morton salt containers titled “Lots Wife,” is a summation of feminine struggle throughout the course of time and epitomizes the artist’s technique of locating the useful within the useless. “Grey Drawing,” for example, comprises dozens of hairnets within individual wax-paper bags that hang together, flat upon a wall. LaThoriel Badenhausen presents objects of memory that may or may not speak to a time that has occurred. The experience of viewing her art brings to mind the treasures found in either the Marché aux Puces located in Clignancourt, Paris or in the curiosity shops located throughout Montmarte – presentations of unique, non-editioned, industrial objects that challenge one not to forget.
Jill Conner, December 2013