Out of the mouth of a stuffed deer head spews a giant pink plastic inflatable that fills a traditionally furnished Hill Country living room, evoking a horror-show expulsion of guts and vomit, a sickeningly sweet tidal wave of cupcake frosting, and everything in-between.
French artist Anne Ferrer, a visiting artist at UTSA, began with a drawing of the pink-spewing deer head last fall in a show at Cactus Bra and now has transformed it into a full-scale installation on view through May 23 in the Project Space at the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. She came to San Antonio at the invitation of UTSA’s Ken Little after he saw her work in Paris two years ago.
Though she lived in the United States for six years while working on a BFA at Oklahoma University and an MFA at Yale, Ferrer said she had never encountered deer, tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, armadillos, or real cowboys until she was invited to work at the Majestic Art Ranch Foundation while teaching at UTSA. Her “Country Wave” is intended to spark the feelings of strangeness and culture shock she experienced in Texas.
A giant pink skull indicates that the installation is more serious than it looks. Anyone who has skinned a deer knows what a grisly scene it can be. And when the inner organs are removed, it’s surprising how much organic matter can fit into such a slim, muscular body cavity. For me, “Country Wave” recalls that cold morning in my grandfather’s barnyard, standing over a pile of steaming guts freshly eviscerated from a six-point buck, when I decided deer hunting wasn’t my thing.
On the other hand, Ferrer may be trying to link French gastronomic excesses with the larded cuisine of Texas home cooking. Curiously, I couldn’t help but think of the scene in WALL•E of an army of obese, Homer Simpson-like Americans who never walk when they can ride a Segway. In retrospect, “Country Wave” resembles an explosion in a Pepto-Bismol factory.
In her drawings, Ferrer mingles images of flowers and intestines with titles such as “Brain Berries” and “Spine Flower,” mixing the beautiful and the grotesque. “Country Wave” makes palpable the entangled feelings of revulsion and curiosity that can result from being immersed in a different country and culture, trying to see the beauty in the beastly.
Snippets of Renaissance paintings, medieval tapestries, and Italian Murano glass provide the raw ingredients for Joel Carreiro’s organic-looking collages in Unreliable Narrator in the Blue Star’s back gallery. The bits and pieces of images are scanned from photographs and then applied by heat transfer to wood, forming a grid of small squares resembling tiles.
Carreiro laboriously arranges the square tiles of imagery into forms suggesting melting stalactites, constellations swarming through space or, as one title has it, “Icebergs in Paradise.” The largest and most impressive painting, “Time Being,” features clumps of arms, legs, heads, and other body parts clipped from Renaissance paintings and arrayed across a shimmering grid of dark squares.
“Grotto” uses a grid of colored squares with organic-looking forms that could be sides of beef or giant icicles. Bones, deer antlers, and rural landscapes form the black print-like images in “In Wonderland,” which has a sepia-toned background. In some of his smaller studies, with titles such as “God’s Ear,” “Archangel” and “Symbol, Metaphor, Allegory,” Carreiro completely fills the grid with his collages, but the institutional-scale works, with realms of negative space between the clumps of imagery, provide a greater sense of depth and of soaring through another dimension.
In contrast with so much exuberance, Roberta Cohen’s black-and-white drawings of bird-headed figures in sunlit interiors in Gallery 4 are much more intimate and personal. Working with pencil, charcoal, pastel, and chalk, she strives to create “the quiet that comes before something is about to happen or has happened.” Formal and meditative, her drawings evoke the underlying suspense of domestic tranquility disturbed by unseen conflicts.
Perhaps inspired by the animal-headed gods of ancient Egypt, Cohen’s figures are somewhat amorphous and depersonalized, though there’s often an unspoken tension between them, as in the seductive posture of the male leaning toward a female in “Parlor Games,” or the deflated, post-coital banality of the man and woman in a bedroom in “Redemption, Mitigation and the Same Old Song.” But there’s also the easy rapport between friends in “Just Like Yesterday.”
Some of her most pleasing works, however, don’t have any figures and are more about how light falls across an interior space: the split-screen scene shifting of an empty dining room in “Finding Your Place, Again,” or the illuminating sunlight spilled across a bed in “The Eyes of the Beholder: Where Secrets Lie.” Cohen’s cozy domestic interiors aren’t realistic, instead providing more of a dreamlike experience, which turns into the hallucinatory floating figures of “The Incredible Lightness of Being” and “Outside of Time.”
Ferrer’s pink plastic exploding anxiety, Carreiro’s swim through rapturous Renaissance visions, and Cohen’s quirky domestic dramas provide stimulating contrast to the spiritual totems by Danville Chadbourne in the Main Gallery, making the Blue Star a good place for the art-starved to find solace during Fiesta. •
Dan Goddard is a freelance art critic and writer who has covered the San Antonio cultural scene for 24 years.
Anne Ferrer: Country Wave
Through May 23
Joel Carreiro: Unreliable Narrator
Through Jun 14
Roberta Cohen: So That We May Find What Has Been Lost
Through Apr 26
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
116 Blue Star