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Lost Civilizations and Found Objects 

The I Ching tells us that "continuity in the midst of change is the secret of the universe." That sounds reassuringly sensible and may even touch on the reasons why people, especially locals, like antiques, old buildings or anything with a patina. Consider that we necessarily live in the present. If we are surrounded by new things then we are stuck in the present, but if we vary the mix with older things we have a much richer range of experience, and hopefully perspective, at our disposal.

The surrealists were the first to make art about consciousness and for that reason they often incorporated objets trouves or "found objects" in their work. They realized that older things become imbued with memories and desires, and whatever else, over time. In that sense, they share something in common with the myths of earlier times, and there is no shortage of such references in the unusual ceramic sculptures of Cara Moczygemba at d.o.c.s. Although no actual found objects appear in her work, they were often used to make the molds from which her pieces are constructed. The results are peculiar, mythic, like recently unearthed icons from some long lost -- and very off-the-wall -- civilization.

Man could almost be a Roman bust, an unadorned head with a commanding, if thuggish, presence. His look suggests not so much Mussolini as one of his henchmen, but his skin is all cracked and crazed, etched with more fault lines than California. His thick neck rests on a pedestal that is really a little shrine with a gothic arch surrounding a robed BVM sort of icon. Look again, and this blessed virgin has the head of a bird. A nearby support column turns out to be a man's body with a Corinthian capital for a head in what amounts to an Edgar Allen Poe take on Greco-Roman mythology.

Moczygemba's flair for molding bits of junk or kitsch into unlikely new forms is seen in Bunny Bride. Here Michelangelo's David appears in miniature next to a female torso with the head of a cartoon rabbit. Actually, David also has some anatomical issues -- his legs are grafted at the knee to the calves of someone much fatter, and his left arm suffers from elephantiasis. Throw in a camel sprouting flowers and wings, and Bunny Bride suggests a pop collage of mythic miscellany, a postmodern potpourri.

But Moczygemba mostly concentrates on her ongoing examination of earthly paradoxes such as the sensuality of spirituality and vice versa, or the beauty of horror and vice versa, as we see in Willow. Here a humanoid tree is topped with a mottled human head, which in turn sprouts a winged female, as if the head of Zeus had given birth to Nike instead of Athena. Two disembodied hands, like spooks from a Charles Addams cartoon, grab her around her waist, and it is all rather enigmatic. But, at its best, Moczygemba's work resonates with the aspirations of the surrealists as well as the ancient myths -- not to mention modern-day goths -- in their quest to find the deeper meanings in ordinary life experiences.

Veronique Day's creations at Sylvia Schmidt are also mythic and, improbably enough, both women were pregnant when working on their shows. But Day's works, which include paintings as well as ceramics, focus exclusively on bovine subjects. Indeed, bulls and cows abound, in a sly, sleight of hand, allegorical sort of way. Some appear in matador poses in ceramics such as Juan: El Divino, in which a bull with a human body appears in a gilt fresco. Others appear in paintings such as Maestro: Manolete, in which a male nude with the head of a bull poses like some beefcake Michelangelo hero. It's a frontal nude, so the theatrical, and amply endowed, subject can't help but invite comparison with George Dureau's confectionery hormonal extravagances, but in Day's case it probably has to do with her sense of bulls as embodying "heroism, strength, virility and pride, and also vulnerability."

In a related vein, some ceramic gothic icons, each replete with the head and rear end of young cows, were purportedly based on her daughters. As always, myths, dreams and whimsies can elucidate or obscure, depending on one's ability or intent. Even so, we continue to manufacture them, knowingly or otherwise.

click to enlarge Cara Moczygemba concentrates on an - ongoing examination of earthly paradoxes such as - the beauty of horror and vice versa, as we see in - Willow.
  • Cara Moczygemba concentrates on an ongoing examination of earthly paradoxes such as the beauty of horror and vice versa, as we see in Willow.
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