‘FOLDS: MARY JO KARIMNIA’

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - ARTS -

The artist plies her craft within a tra­di­tion that ex­isted si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the deep­en­ing cre­ative and philo­soph­i­cal facets of the fem­i­nist move­ment of the 1970s and ’80s dur­ing which fe­male artists ex­ploited the her­itage of “women’s skills” — china paint­ing, knit­ting, em­broi­dery, ap­plique, col­lage — to para­dox­i­cally flaunt the “fem­i­nin­ity” of those ac­tiv­i­ties while cre­at­ing works of ten­sion and com­men­tary.

Karimnia cel­e­brates the beauty of shin­ing, re­flect­ing bead­work — she uses seed beads — and its in­tri­cate pat­tern­ing, as well as the anonymity and char­ac­ter-cre­at­ing sense that dress­ing up in cos­tumes en­dows on the wearer. We see few faces in these pieces, and the con­texts are sketched in with ink and pig­ment, leav­ing a great deal to the viewer’s imag­i­na­tion. In “As­cen­sion,” we are ob­vi­ously rid­ing an es­ca­la­tor, look­ing up at the gor­geous red-and-white striped skirt and red shoes of the girl sev­eral steps above us. That’s a small piece. In the much larger and frankly sump­tu­ous “Delta Fair Sparklers,” two young women wear­ing gowns of dif­fer­ent shades of blue bend over some sort of dis­play while the crowds of peo­ple around them, in their or­di­nary clothes, are drawn in spare

but el­e­gant lines. The spe­cial na­ture of their cos­tumes sets the girls apart, lend­ing a mag­i­cal qual­ity to their pres­ence among mere mor­tals.

The artist delves into an­other medium in sev­eral pieces of em­broi­dery on vin­tage pil­low­cases, like “Blue An­gel” and “Bier­garten (on pink),” again em­pha­siz­ing the fetishis­tic, in­deed the holy taboo na­ture of cos­tumes and their abil­ity to ex­pose the wearer to a par­al­lel re­al­ity. That power of trans­for­ma­tion oc­curs in more static form in the mul­ti­tude of small origami shapes — most mixed me­dia with seed beads on panel — that Karimnia im­bues with iconic force in the still­ness and res­o­nance of their tarot-like placid­ity.

“Folds,” true to its nam­ing, un­folds in meta­mor­phic se­quences as the viewer walks through the gallery — ac­tu­ally a wide cor­ri­dor — as tes­ta­ment to Karimnia’s skills, cu­rios­ity and in­tu­ition. It’s a com­pli­cated, mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary ex­hi­bi­tion that of­fers much to look at and con­tem­plate. And as is the case with such in­ter­na­tion­ally known artists as Kiki Smith and Les­ley Dill, this artist plays around the fringes of folk­lore and the trans­for­ma­tion of the psy­che through the magic of women’s work and the way it im­pinges on the or­di­nary.

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