May 1 – June 26, 1999
In her work Michelle Lopez uses traditional materials in unconventional ways to transform mundane objects into evocative, corporeal forms. The media Lopez carefully chooses draw the viewer into the objects because they engage senses of both sight and smell, and invite touch. The objects she uses as points of departure — boats, cars, trucks — share functions based on transportation, mobility, security, freedom. In this show, Lopez continued her previous use of leather and introduced her innovative exploration of marzipan, another material that, like leather, takes on a flesh-like aspect in the context of her work.
In collaboration with Sarah Bernbach, pastry chef and co-owner of “Cake,” a wedding-cake specialty firm in New York, Lopez created a funerary spectacle of a canoe — with its human scale and evocations of serenity — covered with bursting, larger-than-life wilted flowers, ivy, and butterflies, all made of marzipan. The sugary sweet, wilting floral transformation cast a deathlike aura on the canoe’s empty skeletal frame, creating a magical meditation on memory and the body.
In her leather construction, Lopez substantially increased the scale of her earlier investigations into traditional practices of hand tooled-leather design by wrapping an automobile in hides, making visible the vehicle’s arrested action. Using buffalo skins as raw material, she applied a modified process of scribing, where lines are cut with blades, rubbed with dental tools, and beaten from behind so that the images swell. Lopez confined the images to a small area on the skin, in order to heighten the notion of imagery as wound. The result is a densely-layered hieroglyph on a large field of leather — a kind of perverse landscape inscribed with a mutated tale. Like practices of ritual scarification, this artwork exists as lesions or welts, as bruised images on flesh.
In earlier artworks made of leather, such as Pled (1997) and Snuff (1998), Lopez’s stories start with pictures of beds or sofas — what the artist refers to as “domestic places of surrender.” She follows those with layers of familiar cartoon characters and logo patterns. Her interest is in how common iconography intensely toppled onto each other are abstracted, yet retain a sense of familiarity. In her work Michelle Lopez creates each story within a quiet perversion of violence, embedding memory within a surface, distilling an uncanny form that never quite reaches recognition.
Michelle Lopez received her B.A. in literature and art history in 1992 at Barnard College, and she received her M.F.A in 1994 at the School of Visual Arts. She has been exhibiting since 1996 in various groups shows and has had solo exhibitions at Feature Inc. and Deitch Projects, both in New York. Lopez was a recipient of the MacDowell Colony Fellowship.