Friday, August 17, 2012

Beth Mullins and Unnatural Selections, opening at ARC's 4Squared show next Saturday

Beth Mullins and Unnatural Selections, opening at ARC's '4Squared' show next Saturday (August 25th).

Beth Mullins. "Unnatural Selection" tableau

Our next stop of the day was to visit Beth Mullins. As I puffed up the stairs, I thought (not for the first time) about how artists put up with all sorts of inconvenient spaces (no elevators!) to find room to make their art. Plus, I wouldn't need to use stair master to get my exercise of the day.

Yet, the location at 1890 Folsom St. brings back happy memories of taking calligraphy classes from Ward and Linea and smelling the glorious baking fragrance from the bakery on the 2nd floor. So, I knew that the space has it's advantages and I was looking forward to my next adventure.

Beth's tiny cubicle is in a larger space, shared by at least a half dozen artists.

Beth Mullins. Bionic Dog. 2121. A hybrid creature with two dog legs and two unusual legs of unknown origin.

But once you enter the impeccably clean and organized room, you are in an alien world.

Beth Mullins, "Test tube Boy." 2012. detail.

She has organized her sixteen pieces along one wall, each one a beautifully alien creature, a tiny being from another planet, mounted on what looked like 19th century pedestals. Each piece is assembled from natural materials, stems, pods, moss, animal skeletons but also from man-made materials like glass, iron and tiny porcelain figures.

 Beth Mullins, "Test tube Boy." 2012.

Beth told us that she envisioned them as the result of "unnatural selection," beings that might evolve the ecological catastrophe that is galloping upon us. But her botanical creatures are out of some delicate fantasy, not a nightmare of ugly mutants.

Beth Mullins, "Test Tuby Boy." 2012. detail of head

In her artist's statement she writes, "Biology and complex systems fascinate me.  I explore relationships between form and function and challenge well-known connections between familiar objects. In the Unnatural Selection Collection, I create new species and lab creatures by giving them new unexpected forms and surreal functions."

I was minded of the mutant creatures evolving out of nuclear war as portrayed in "A Canticle for Lebowitz." But those beings were far cruel and more wounded than Mullin's fantasy fae. Her background may be scientific but her imagination is definitely visionary.

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