Minnesota-native Lindsay Rhyner usually spends several months in New Orleans sifting through Criagslist free piles, trash cans, and abandoned buildings for discarded Mardi Gras costumes, fabrics, clothing, and other objects that she quilts into intricate large scale tapestries. I first saw Lindsay’s work at a cafe in Minneapolis, and two of those older pieces were present at the three person group show, which also featured assemblage pieces and recycled art from artists Shannon Tracy and Al Benkin. The gallery is a pop-up located on the second floor above Mister Gregory’s at 810 Rampart. The event was sponsored by PBR as a sort of Prospect 3 Biennial hanger-on, which I will return to in a bit. Several electronic musicians provided synthy soundtracks that dovetailed well with the artwork in the show.
Tropical Murder Capital
Rhyner’s fabric art has evolved into some pretty great social commentary in the years since I first saw it. The older works were much heavier in material physically, and darker in color. They tend towards decorative occult in feel, and contain a litany of eyeballs, triangles, fringe, and symbols. New works, made in the last year, utilize a larger scale than before and some of the same symbols and shorthand imagery make appearances. The fabric utilized seems more considered, lighter, yet more intricate and conveys the attitudes of each piece well. The first piece, Tropical Murder Capital, has several clues embedded within the content to ground it in New Orleans. The materials are shiny, rich, and shimmer, some are even composed of a plastic-like material like vinyl. The largest clue to the piece actually references a street art project that an anonymous artist has been installing throughout the 7th, 8th, and 9th Wards. I’ve seen about half a dozen abandoned homes with a large, two foot diameter black bullet hole dripping red blood, made from plywood, installed at the peak of each building’s facade. A fabric reproduction of this in the lower right hand area of the tapestry, juxtaposed with tropical palm trees, bloody saws, and bolt cutters creates violence in the midst of aqua-blue and green lush scenes of sub-tropical lushness. The piece is organized into a landscape format, with a swirl of neon blue material at the top lending a sense of sinister weather to the work.
Tropical Murder Capital (detail)
The second piece utilizes sepia tones and distressed fabrics to create a vintage feel in a piece titled 1944. Violence here shimmers gold and takes form in dozens of arrow figures targeting a central structure that looks like a temple or fortress of some kind. The composition is also a vertical landscape, with more of the arrow shapes flying in both directions in the background creating movement and confusion. The muted and harmonious palette and the unusual edges that break the rectangular mold of the other tapestries help focus the content inwards toward the scene of destruction created.
Overall the show was well attended and the artists all worked well together. The crowd was enjoying the free PBR and most everyone walked away with free PBR merchandise. I have been to several sponsored events like this as “hip” corporations seem to have discovered that a lot of creative people live and work in New Orleans. Microsoft sponsored a tableau vivant at the Wax Museum along with a bounce rave, and Scion recently sponsored a concert series that a lot of my friends attended. All three of these events sponsored by PBR, Microsoft, and Scion paid the artists, performers, and musicians, as well as decorators, actors, and seamstresses to make the events come off as “handmade” or “underground”. In a way they are fueling the creative industry of New Orleans, but many events such as these take place all the time and do so with limited monetary resources or volunteer power. Prospect 3 has engulfed many arts venues this year and includes many recognized international art stars, but seems light in the locals department. As a result, it is difficult to book as show or venue for art happenings as many spaces are taking part in P3 as venues. PBR filled that gap for better or worse, as it included five year-round NOLA residents and one part-timer. This balances the sponsored feeling and “icky” feeling many of the artists felt since it would be difficult for this event to happen organically at this time. The gallery space was small but well lit and had a balcony overlooking Armstrong Park. Overall, great music, great recycled art, and free beer added up to a nice evening, which overshadowed the corporate feel.