Fused Space is pleased to present “Curious and Curiouser,” a three-person exhibition featuring oil paintings by Courtney Johnson, glass and steel sculptures by Julie Béna, and tapestries woven from gold lamé and embellished with found materials by Josh Faught. Using everyday life and popular culture as points of departure, these artists fold fact into fiction, constructing imaginary worlds that are simultaneously familiar and alien. Why did Alice in Wonderland cry “Curiouser and Curiouser!”? Because “she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English.” Béna, Faught, and Johnson understand the good grammar of their various mediums, but subvert it self-consciously to explore the language, theater and narrative forms of altered realities.
Julie Béna’s work oscillates between performance, installation and theater. Destiny, a sculpture consisting of two glass panels joined together by three brushed steel columns, acts as a translucent room divider. An illuminated cone sits atop the center column, evoking both indoor and outdoor lamps. Seven black letters float randomly, spelling various words such as “edit,” “nest,” “send,” “sin,” “dine,” “deity,” “density,” “yeti” and, of course, the work’s title “destiny.” The effect is one in which the words seem to roam the room, eluding singularity and retaining mystery. Destiny, like Béna’s other sculptures, is reminiscent of a prop; it transforms its environment, placing the viewer on a stage activating a hundred imaginary scenarios.
Fusing personal and collective histories, Josh Faught’s methodically composed fiber wall works investigate language, constructions of identity, and networks of support. Between a Rock and a Hard Place is a diptych in which the right panel is a Jacquard-woven image of a brick wall while the left panel combines hand-woven texts appropriated from the 1980’s Gay Areas Directory. The panels are united visually by their strong horizontal linearity and conceptually by their similar relationship to demarcating boundaries and protecting community. Index headings such as adult bookstores, counseling feminist, and opera education become a humorous portrait of a historical community. On the right, at the center of the brick wall, a bit of mortar is missing, exposing a peephole and potential escape into another world.
Courtney Johnson’s paintings investigate the emotional resonances between colors, the illusion of plasticity that creates the fantasy of familiar forms while warping, exaggerating and hyperbolizing them into strangeness. Empirical Somethings, for example, depicts a mountain landscape turned on its side to construct a wobbly staircase to a destination we cannot see. Billowy folds of yellow, turquoise and apricot swell across the canvas, like smoke or marble, while a pearl-white face, nearly hidden or camouflaged, is carved directly into the stone landscape in the foreground. In the grouping of works for “Curious and Curiouser,” Johnson has continued her retreat to alien and dizzying places, drawing inspiration from popular films such as Michael Powell’s psychological drama Black Narcissus (1947), as well as Ursula LeGuin’s science fiction novel, Planet of Exile (1966).