Katie Pell’s current show at Galeria Ortiz (you belong (here)) explores the relationship between artist and viewer in a more explicit way than artists usually attempt:
Like the framed niches printed on wallpaper adorning French houses and salons, I am presenting works to frame whatever stands before it. Like you. You are a product of a lot of hard work, and this is my version of a standing ovation. Yes, that’s right, this is my standing ovation to you, full of adorable fuzzy creatures of the forest, rock stars, bouquets of flowers and mythical creatures from heaven.
Well, ok, I didn’t see any rock stars, but these mirror-framed pastel drawings do leave a wide-open sky within which to see yourself surrounded by flowers and fuzzy creatures (photos by Justin Parr):
Pell’s decision to frame the viewer twice, first within the reflected gallery environment, then within the dense, baroque flora / fauna scenery is an interesting one, if a bit jarring (and difficult to photograph). What is the viewer to make of this fantastical world, full of happy forest creatures clutching Pixie Stix and Hershey’s kisses, framed by a mirror reflecting white walls, and perhaps a Mondini-Ruiz painting or two? Is the artist celebrating the viewer or projecting an idealized facade, not too different from the idealizations art enthusiasts might project on artists? Why does she expect us to see ourselves in these whispy, pink- and yellow-tinted clouds floating in a baby blue sky?
Pell claims in her statement: “I just want you to feel special” — and I appreciate her attempt to address the relationship between artist and viewer directly, whether she means it or not. I don’t know when the show closes (the flier doesn’t say, and apparently every section of the Galeria Ortiz website is “currently under construction”) but Tuesday morning (November 6), Pell is having a gallery talk at 11:am, which she would prefer you not attend, miracle though you may be. Well, at least she told me not to attend, but maybe you’re more special than I am.