Capturing the nature of our polarized society, artist B. Lynch’s mixed media exhibition “Extravagantly Absurd” displays the human condition and the dichotomy of power in everyday life.
Using paper sculptures, wires, paints, and prints to create a multitude of dioramas, paintings, and figurines, Lynch’s installation is on display in the Mazmanian Art Gallery until Dec. 14. It engages with various materials to generate a relationship between different media platforms to construct a diverse set of stories and worlds based on the viewers’ observations.
Lynch said the colors presented, materials used, and positionality of the media in her artwork is purposeful, including the title of her installation, to pose the question of what makes life worthwhile – money and leisure or talent and passion?
“I find that this notion of how life is lived in our world today and throughout history is often observed,” she said.
Her interest in history, art history, politics, religion, and philosophy reflect in her work, which is a mashup of two time periods or two factions of human existence – represented by the colors red and gray.
The figurines in the “red faction” are situated in the 18th century during the French and American revolutions, since a lot of money was being made “on the backs of slaves” and was not equally distributed, she said. The figurines in the “grey faction” live in a dystopian setting that could be oriented in a “nebulous” time such as the early 20th century or a post-apocalyptic era.
Senior Kat Blum said, “I thought the use of color was particularly interesting. I would have thought the artist would use purple, given its historical significance, rather than red. The red color prompted the viewer to ask more questions, and investigate the installation further. I think it was a smart decision on the artist’s part.”
Even though Lynch has her own idea of where and what time period the figurines represent, she said the show is up to interpretation.
“A lot of these stories are open- ended. … I still truly don’t know the story,” Lynch said.
The figurines are made of wire, then wrapped with tracing paper and tape to hold the figure in place. Next, Lynch said she puts on modeling paste or an acrylic polymer that tightens the figurine before wrapping it in yet another layer of paper. She then paints the dolls, makes the outfits out of paper, and glues them onto her models.
“It’s been a several-year process and it’s continuous. … It’s just a universe that never quite ends,” she said.
The very first figurine Lynch made was “horseman,” a mythological creature painted in red that is both man and horse with fierce pointed teeth and a wand. She then built the “queen,” a woman of power wielding a sword, and “hornman,” equipped with a staff – all emblems of power.
“I wanted to have a dichotomy going. … Then, I started creating the ‘greys,’” she said, asking herself questions such as, “Why am I compelled to do this?” and “What are things that are important in life?” throughout the process. Lynch read Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden” to gain a perspective about the life one lives while trying to find one’s own identity.
The first grey figure Lynch made is a grotesque image of a man with his guts falling out of his body. Although this figurine is not in the exhibition, it paved a path toward her final vision.
As Lynch went along, she said she continually went back to this notion of “what makes a life worth living” and began to have a “tremendous sympathy” for the greys.
The grey figurines are not only illustrated wearing white, black, and gray attire under a dull light, but are presented as people in cages performing manual tasks.
After hearing about President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and seeing families stopped at the border, separated, and locked up, the idea of putting people in cages furthermore horrified Lynch.
“Some of it is very surprising to me – how current events can reflect something that I had designed maybe a few months before. … I already designed this and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is so much more powerful in a sense because it’s happening,’” she said.
Her “wolfman” figurine stands on top of the cages holding a book in his hand as if he is preaching, while “horseman” is displayed on the opposite side of the room pointing his wand in the direction of “wolfman” as if to suppress him from declaiming knowledge to the rest of the greys.
Lynch said she continues to make more characters and portraits of these characters to create new relationships. “I’m interested in who they are,” she said.
Senior Kayla Otten said, “The almost story-book atmosphere with the powerful message about discord in our country made it more powerful. It was almost dystopian.”
Senior Michael Hendon said, “I love how Lynch has the characters sort of interacting on display. This entire display feels like it’s cut out of the world that she has created. … It feels otherworldly.”
[Editor’s Note: Kayla Otten is a staff writer for The Gatepost.]