In addition to rising from a cryptic, somehow unseemly collage of puzzles and incorporating a gaze like the proverbial “thousand-yard stare,” (Mental) Labyrinth, the 2019 truncated bust whose image appears here, sports a serpentine coiffure recalling that of Medusa, the ancient Greek mythological monster.
Yet the sculpture – a 12- by 18- by 9-inch piece in papier-mâché and encaustic (heated wax and resin), with found stones and leather – originated not in monstrosity but in empathy, explains its creator, St. Charles resident Deanne Row.
“The piece shown started as they all do: a generic human that might change shape, size, gender and attitude several times while it’s developing on my table,” she recalls. “It just so happened that someone I’m close to was going through a physical and cognitive decline as the piece came to life.
“At some point, I started projecting my feelings about her directly into the work, and (Mental) Labyrinth was born of mazes and puzzles and dead ends that represented her struggles. These are balanced by the personal symbols and colors and happy memories added to the piece.”
In an oddly apt way, Row’s work in sculpture in general and papier-mâché in particular arose from a bit of catharsis (an old, old word itself originating in ancient Greece).
“I began sculpting in papier-mâché in 2018, as a means of ‘therapy’ during a stressful time transitioning out of corporate work,” she says. “There’s something tremendously soothing in building up hundreds of layers of gooey strips of paper – and then cutting, carving and grinding back into the surface. It was all very accidental: I had considered myself a painter until then.
“An interesting process grew out of these first sculptures, as I found myself reading many of the newspaper articles and ads while working. I started grouping advertisements and articles by theme, with the intention of using them to make a statement on the surface of a piece or hiding them inside the internal structure. They were well received, so I continued to develop this accidental series of work.”
Given the Gorgon-like do of (Mental) Labyrinth, a final irony seems worthy of note. Before COVID-19 turned the world topsy-turvy, the St. Louis Artists’ Guild in Clayton had scheduled a solo exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Row to run from April 10 through last Saturday, May 23, now postponed for obvious reasons. The exhibition’s title? “Myth or Memory.”
To learn more about our featured artist, visit galleryrow.com.
St. Louis-area artists who wish to be considered for future installments of this monthly department of Ladue News should email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Art & Soul” in the subject line.
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