‘Mes­sages’ from a sen­si­tive soul

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - Marc Sel­wyn Fine Art, 9953 S. Santa Mon­ica Blvd., Bev­erly Hills, (310) 277-9953, through July 11. Closed Sun­days and Mon­days. marc sel­wyn­fin­eart.com

Kristen Mor­gin’s poignant ex­hi­bi­tion at Marc Sel­wyn Fine Art con­sists of hun­dreds of items, in­clud­ing well-used pa­per­backs, record al­bums, comic books, pup­pets, dolls, fig­urines, blocks, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, tin cans, pen­cil stubs, craft projects, cof­fee cups, news­pa­per pho­tos, scraps of wood, packs of cig­a­rettes and books of matches.

Ar­ranged in tidy clus­ters that seem to tell tragic sto­ries, the mélange of me­men­tos re­calls a mod­est — or sorry — rummage sale, its ob­jects too dam­aged to sell for more than spare change.

The por­trait painted by Mor­gin’s in­stal­la­tion is of a sen­si­tive soul whose love of the lit­tle things that once gave her life mean­ing oc­cu­pies a large part of her cur­rent life, so much so that she can­not get on with it.

But that im­pres­sion van­ishes when you look closely and no­tice that nearly ev­ery­thing in the bit­ter­sweet ex­hi­bi­tion, in­clud­ing the price tags on the pa­per­backs and the tape mending torn pages, has been made from clay. And hand painted.

Mor­gin has not sim­ply col­lected the odds and ends she cher­ished as a kid grow- ing up in the 1970s, many of which ap­pear to have been passed down by her par­ents and grand­par­ents. She has hand­crafted her home­made in­ven­tory, work­ing metic­u­lously to get ev­ery color, tex­ture and form to look like some­thing she must have once owned.

The patina of age is pal­pa­ble. Time’s pas­sage is ev­i­dent in yel­lowed pages, creased cov­ers, worn edges, stained sur­faces, bro­ken toys and faded fab­rics. His­tory’s losses are embodied by the miss­ing limbs of fig­ures, in­com­plete sets and stray play­things, their part­ners lost for­ever.

Made of un­fired clay, Mor­gin’s sculp­tures are as vul­ner­a­ble to­day as the orig­i­nals on which they are based. Their sur­faces are of­ten cov­ered with stick­ers and scrib­bles. Th­ese marks seem to have been added by sib­lings or older ver­sions of the per­son who owned them.

The ex­hi­bi­tion’s ti­tle, “Mes­sages to My Twenty Year Old Self,” sug­gests that Mor­gin’s in­te­rior life is a rich one, filled with lively di­a­logues be­tween her present and past selves, not to men­tion her par­ents, rel­a­tives and imag­i­nary friends.

At a time when mono­logues make up so much of what passes for public dis­cus­sion, it is both inspiring and heart-wrench­ing to bear wit­ness to the mul­ti­lay­ered con­ver­sa­tions Mor­gin has with her self.

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