Salty: Three Tales of Sorrow
Sorrow and its briny companion, salt, are at the heart of Edith Abeyta’s 3-part installation at El Camino College Art Gallery. A sense of loss, whether personal or universal, underlies the black humor and welter of scavenged wood, greenware ceramics, handkerchiefs, souvenirs and onion soup. Herein lie issues as far flung as global warming, labor, mass production, women’s issues, hand processes of reproduction and the general human impact upon the planet. Abeyta poses questions, not solutions.
Her gift for collaborative participation, whether with other artists, or with the viewer, is at play in Cry Me a River where 850 contributed handkerchiefs/tear collectors, hang suspended from a grid of string. On a nearby wall is a block of 51 hand-drawn and painted hankies, collected from 51 artists. Viewers are invited to draw on other handkerchiefs provided by the gallery and join the fest of sorrow. In her work, which frequently references traditional techniques and traditional societies, Abeyta pools the contributions of many with the sense that multiple voices are stronger than one. Her standpoint is one of detachment rather than possession of ideas and art forms.
In 1792 Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, tried for treason and beheaded, due to her position as Queen of France, her aristocratic viewpoin,t and historical circumstance. She has been subsequently vilified throughout history. Abeyta takes the viewer deeper than, “Let them eat cake”, in her installation 280 (Antoinette’s prisoner number). 280 is the artist’s recreation of the prison cell, walls papered with pages of a memoir written by Marie Antoinette’s Lady in Waiting, Mme. Campon. The installation provokes questions about revolution-who is the victim or victor, who the scapegoat. Without intending to exonerate the queen, the artist addresses the complexity of one woman’s fate and her position in a time of upheaval. On the wall outside the prison chamber, a be-wigged, be-rouged photo portrait of Abeyta as Marie Antoinette humorously evokes a personal parallel.
platform, 15’x15’, the dimensions of a Sumo wrestling ring, is the setting for Heart
Follows Bird. Overhead flies a delicate string of off-white prayer
flags, each bearing the embroidered name of one of 340 species of migratory
birds that depend upon the
Edith Abeyta creates an atmosphere that lies somewhere between Early America and cross-cultural anthropology. The work is open ended, tangential and generous. Conceptual but neither theoretical nor rhetorical, Salty: Three Tales of Sorrow is informed by a smart synthesis of historical reference and personal experience. Her receptions and exhibitions are opportunities for a unique sort of social gathering and dialog between both friends and strangers.