Wally Workman Gallery
A Ponderous Weight (Why did I not discover before that it was nothing) is a solo exhibition by New Orleans artist Mallory Page featuring a new body of large-scale, abstract works and is the second installation of Page’s several part series, A Ponderous Weight, an interpretation of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Unlike Page’s previous paintings, where brush and pouring motions are predominantly vertical, here Page has applied paint horizontally, with layers of paint choreographed on each canvas to recall the slow movement of water in the Gulf. Page has also limited herself to singular color in each of these new works, rather than multiple colors applied to be perceived as one, masterfully manipulating one color to render effects of lightness, transparency, motion and difference.
In the gallery’s front room, a site specific installation, Initiation Room, interweaves canvas panels to cover walls, pool onto the floor, and envelop viewers in a sense of space. Resin busts of Venus hold down puddled canvas and create a binary moment that links the unique nature in which Page approaches painting to consider space while continuing her exploration of monochrome and how measured changes in a hue can effect shifts in visual perception.
Moving into the second room, Page continues her rhythmic work on stretched canvas; with pigmented and diluted strokes each work is pulsating color. These distinctly chromatic zones define and often hint to another era- offering suggestions of alternative periods of time through color references and connecting one underlying mantra throughout: the feminine revolution. Here, she draws attention to concepts such as opposition and transformation, a meditation of sorts on the antagonistic impulses that define Chopin’s heroine as well as on the inner conflict she experiences while moving from a woman rooted in Creole society toward a life defined by sensuality and candor. Page also imagines here another more mystical transition, in which the female figure emerges from the gulf as Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation who was born from the sea.
“I explore questions of feminine roles as related to my distinct and complex cultural terrain. I have continually returned to 19th-century author Kate Chopin and her famed exploration of a woman’s identity in The Awakening. The novel takes place primarily on Grand Isle, not far outside of New Orleans, and follows Edna Pontellier — a woman who, in a period of self-discovery turns away from societal convention and toward a more primal and passionate existence. When I created A Ponderous Weight: I don’t remember if I was frightened or pleased’ I was surprised by the very heavy nature of the work, it felt like a death to me once I stepped away from it and while I think a part of me did actually die in that work, a powerful new theme arrived inside of me that called for a deeper investigation into the “initiation” phase (a descent inward) — in which A Ponderous Weight continues.”