After I missed seeing Lucy Hodgson’s solo show Hail and Farewell: Tyrants at Play at SOHO20 in Bushwick, I saw the work installed in her studio. I was drawn there, in part, by the passion in her artist statement excerpted here:
As a sculptor and printmaker, my three dimensional works and etchings express outrage at the ongoing obliteration of antiquity due to warring factions. The ingredient that motivates the carnage is, of course, not religion — the trope used to manipulate war— but petroleum. In the Middle East, monuments that took centuries to plan and build have become rubble and dust. Since the need for fuel – primarily for military purposes at first – arose at the beginning of the 20th century, we have seen ancient cultural heritage sites become magnets for foreign greed and for despotic acts of wanton destruction.
My latest constructions represent the ruined temples of Syria and the treasures of Iraq. Hail and Farewell: Tyrants at Play at the SOHO20 Gallery (April 19 – May 20) is an exhibition in which I try to evoke the senses of desperation and futility that come from seeing beautiful, civilized, cleverly engineered structures wantonly destroyed for political gain. Tiny hands — whose you can guess — ballooning from the rooftops, salute, wave goodbye, give and revoke assent, and otherwise manipulate the future. Twisted pipes, wires, rusted bedsprings and machine parts sprout from miniature buildings and columns made from cast concrete. Black “oil spills” made from polyester seep up through the floors threatening to obliterate the whole structure.
In my past work I have protested the extraction and processing of fossil fuels by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and drilling– processes which destroy most of the surrounding environment….
Hodgson’s statement expresses her passion about her subject and what, how, and why her art about ancient art is vital to her. Hodgson presents her themes, materials, and contexts directly yet leaves viewers room to see the metaphors, synecdoches, humor, irony, and shadows:
- Each art work addresses an aspect of the larger, universal problem, making each
- SYNECDOCHE (part of a whole): Hodgson’s pipes and columns symbolize systemic destructions of particular ecosystems and cultures.
- extended METAPHORS (direct comparisons). Architectural fragments denote both world heritage sites and human lives.
- SYMBOLS: Hodgson’s plumbing pipes symbolize oil pipelines and fracking as well as the resultant pollution of water, air, and land.
- The installation uses light and shadows to double and triple the drama/impact of the art.
The studio is in transition since the artist is moving to Rhode Island soon. Her huge press is already gone. However, she has set up lighting so that I can see Paseo to Palmyra, 2018 (concrete and rodent skull), the passageway of double columns with the same tiny hand on top of each column. These create taller shadows whose symbolism could mean anything from hello to goodbye to “Heil, Hitler”: a multivalent message. The small hands allude to a key authority figure. Hodgson tells me the title and art refer to the Temple of Baal (1st C. A.D.) in Palmyra, Syria, the most important temple in the Middle East, which was destroyed by ISIS in August, 2015. Online images show dramatic pictures of Isis literally blowing it up and also beheading the 82-year-old Director of Antiquities.
Taking it All to a Higher Power, 2017 is a curious tower structure of concrete, wire, Envirotek, and steel pipe. It alludes to the mud towers in Yemen that Freya Stark writes about her 1937-8 accounts in her book A Winter in Arabia. Clearly, Hodgson’s mud tower alerts us about the country’s poverty as it reminds us of the ongoing civil war.
See the Conquering Hero Come, 2017 could be a horse’s head or a camera; its triple shadows allude to those cast worldwide by the oil industry. The head with curious nobs and pipes stands on a slender pipe with tripod camera legs.
Farewell to Aleppo, 2017 is a multi-column building with a hand waving atop its domed roof. This mourns the destruction of another temple leveled by bombs and war and also represents the thousands of deaths in the region. The hand suggests that the United States, rather than acting like the voice of reason, shares responsibility for the region’s devastation.
Earlier sculpture in the studio includes Good to the Last Drop – from a series on trees being destroyed by fracking, and Where the Wild Goose has Gone – a framed goose breast bone with wing shoulder bones in a wire cage on a black oil (Envirotek) background.
In the studio, some tools are still in their places, but Hodgson’s pending move is forecast in a labyrinth of empty bookcases. These plus three walls of windows at the far end of the studio suggest an artist whose large body of work encompasses a compassionate world view beyond the neighborhood. See LucyHodgson.com for a fuller picture.