Amanda Browder rules “CYCLONE”

June 24, 2008

 

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

 

Call the roller of big cigars,

The muscular one, and bid him whip

In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.

Let the wenches dawdle in such dress

As they are used to wear, and let the boys

Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.

Let be be finale of seem.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

 

Take from the dresser of deal,

Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet

On which she embroidered fantails once

And spread it so as to cover her face.

If her horny feet protrude, they come

To show how cold she is, and dumb.

Let the lamp affix its beam.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Wallace Stevens

 

amanda browder rules

“CYCLONE”

 

but we all know that, right? browder used to be a staple around these parts. It used to be that she lived in Chicago. Recently, she moved to New York. I saw her once in Chinatown—after playing video games at an ancient arcade, some friends and I trotted over to a bar where, allegedly, old Asian men play dice with the bartender. The drinks were supposed to be terrible, and expensive, the ambiance incorrigible: red low-lit room, drop-ceiling, Christmas lights and tinsel all over the place. It wasn’t Christmas, but visions of retired Triad members made it impossible to pass up.

            At any rate, Browder came to join us—a whirlwind of energy. She’s a tall, willowy woman, long brown hair, a little sadness in the eyes, what I believe provokes her wild exuberance. She’s a busy one, for sure—one of the original members of bad at sports (www.badatsports.com), plus art-making, stomping around to this or that art-related thing, and she’s an optician. When I saw her in New York she seemed to buzz with New Things. New Stories.

 

About The Show:

            The show she put up at the Green Lantern reflects that same kind of energy. An energy of calamity, disruption and excitement. There is a 12-foot “cyclone,” sewn by hand, it stretches from a cloud of cotton on the floor, to the ceiling. You can see the parody of the natural disaster from the window on passing trains. The fabric swatches  which comprise it feature small cats, near-transparent gold, polka-dot swatches and other brightly-colored fabrics.

 

            Much of Browder’s work appeals to this same aesthetic: there is a way in which she’ll re-interpret natural elements like fire, rocks and caves, using colorful and often vintage fabrics or quilts, sewing them up and stuffing them, transforming an intimidating imposition of Nature into an abstract visual poetry. In my mind it’s a way of personalizing a remote and austere power (Nature), over which humanity had no control, and in fact is diminished by. Browder humanizes these elements as Wallace Stevens might humanize death through the creation of a poem.

            Additionally, “Cyclone” features a gorilla puking up ribbons.  Also: a painting of sewn canvas with a Viking ship on it and ribbons coming out of its helm and falling to the floor.  A small porcelain rabbit looks up at the ship, seemingly unaware of the gorilla staring at its back. The small white rabbit has a pink ribbon around its neck and behind the painting (the painting is leaning against the wall, not hanging), vinyl letters—some of which are neon—spell out “This Ship Has Sailed”.  The letters were cut from large sheets of vinyl material, and the negative of this—the remaining sheets—were re-configured, pasted one on top of the other on another wall, where the same phrase is reiterated: This Ship Has Sailed. In this second case, it is as if the letters have indeed abandoned their perch, leaving behind a message, like any note: Mom, I went to the grocery store.

 

            Finally, because it cannot be ignored, there is a lightening bolt. Hanging off the wall, black and yellow striped, it almost feels like a professional tie for the room. Transforms the wall into a go-getter.

 

About the Opening:

Before the opening, Duncan and Amanda interviewed Ed Marszewski and Rachel about Proximity Magazine. They were sitting at the kitchen table eating fried chicken while Young Joon and I bustled about with last minute details: printing out price lists, sweeping, touching up the walls.

            A baby appeared a half hour early, delivered by parents who wanted to see the show.

            “If you feel the fat on this thigh, you’ll want to have one,” the mother said, pinching the little thigh to demonstrate. People in the room drew in a circle around the little thing, looking at the baby’s leg like a curious fertility drug. A few dared the pinch themselves, but not many.           

 

The opening in full swing, and people came and went over the course of varying occasions. The night was cool, it had been raining off and on all day, and the sky was still mottled with the pregnancy of rain.  I met a kid who wasn’t in high school. I met his sister who wanted to transfer out of college: both of them hungry, it seemed, to figure out what the hell life was all about, and probably a little frustrated that it wasn’t more apparent.

            An artist indoors was plotting her residency in solitary confinement in the Netherlands. It was part of a larger project, in which several artists had applied to do projects in solitary confinement all at the same time, for a whole month. She was planning to do most of the work in the beginning of the residency, anticipating that as the days and darkness drew out, she would have less and less enthusiasm about finishing what she’d set out to accomplish.

            —Houdinies of the household, Little Grey and Mei Mei escaped—

            Mysteriously, of course: a cause of great speculation.

            They were nevertheless promptly returned to the safe cloisters of the closet.

One fellow went hither and thither, in a kind of solo-dance step, strolling around conversations in a suit and tie, stopping on the cusp of a circle of people, he would wait for a pause in their conversation and then ask, “What is a non-sequitur?” A certain lilt in his voice. Clearly a happy man.

            Or on the porch, in the corner by the door, there was a huddle of fellows:

            WHITE SHIRT (shirt is orange and luminous, as cast by the back-alley street light): When we renovated our house we found pants stuffed in the walls.

            GRUFF SWARTHY: Was it an old building?

            WHITE SHIRT: I assume so, the pants looked old.

            YELLOW GIRL: Did you try them on?

            WHITE SHIRT: They were too small.

            GIGGLES: giggles

            YELLOW GIRL: You did try them on.

            WHITE SHIRT: I held them up to myself. Like so. (held imaginary pants to his waist)

            NEW PERSON: Wait. I don’t understand. The pants were stuffed in the walls?

            GRUFF SWARTHY: Like insulation. Instead of newspaper. Or fiberglass.

            YELLOW GIRL: That’s old-timey (old timey is in air quotes).

            NEW PERSON: Were they children’s pants?

            WHITE SHIRT: Little boys’ maybe.

            GIGGLES: giggles

            YELLOW GIRL: Do you think someone killed the little boys before they put the pants in the wall?

            GRUFF SWARTHY: Were there dead bones in the wall too?

            WHITE SHIRT: Ground up, maybe.           

            NEW PERSON: What did you do with the pants?

            WHITE SHIRT: The workers wanted them. So I gave them to them.

            GRUFF SWARTHY: Is it wrong to trade labor for children’s clothes?

            GIGGLES: giggles

            YELLOW GIRL: I heard you can trade dirty girls’ socks for money on e-bay.

            NEW PERSON: The dirtier the better.

            WHITE SHIRT: I also found a German newspaper from World War Two. With the pants, in the same wall. It was all about Hitler.

            GRUFF SWARTHY: Did you keep that?

            WHITE SHIRT: The workers wanted that also. So I gave it. They lowered the cost of their work.

            YELLOW GIRL: What’s in your walls now?

            WHITE SHIRT: I don’t know.

            GRUFF SWARTHY: Fingernails.

 

Giggles, the other girl on the porch, a slip of a girl, I believe she was with the truant, she had long brown hair a little wavy and wore a shorts-suit, one piece, with a little leotard underneath. She seemed frail in her sandals, her feet perched in a terminal point of indecision. She didn’t say much of anything, just giggled now and again, a little wild.

            She only really came alive once they started talking bands, once her fellow came outside to join everyone.

            “I want a smoothie,” she said. Possibly stoned, or maybe just touched, no one could be sure. It seemed to suit her either way, the breathy non-sequitur pitch of her nerves. She giggled again.

            “I like tropical smoothies,” said the truant.

            “Tropical Smoothie Band, I like that,” Gruff Swarthy said.

            “Your first album could be called Coppertone,” said Yellow Girl.

            Giggles clapped her hands. Like the white shirt, she was also orange. “And then after ten years, we could call ourselves ‘Psycho tropical.’ When we’d get really intense.”

            “Just like Jefferson Airplane becoming Jefferson Starship.”

            “Yes.” 

 

Inside, a fellow opened a new bottle of wine, intent, I suspect, on seeing Amanda. He poured two cups.

 As they all left one by one I saw several touch the gorilla on their way out. In particular they seemed to like a flap of fabric that was sewn on his back right shoulder: a good luck charm, perhaps. 

– caroline p.

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