Each work, and the ex­hibit as a whole, re­flects the artist’s own na­ture and feels like a self-por­trait.

Pasatiempo - - ART IN REVIEW - LIT Ances­tor Masks, Di­rected.

Al­though draws from early pe­ri­ods in Simp­son’s ca­reer, many of the works on view were made for the ex­hi­bi­tion, which is the re­sult of two years of plan­ning. In­cluded are seven of Simp­son’s which adorn the walls, en­cir­cling the space as though bear­ing wit­ness to all of her ex­hib­ited works — and by ex­ten­sion, her­self. The clay masks, as well as other fig­ures in the ex­hi­bi­tion, fea­ture sym­bols based on her Santa Clara her­itage as well as on her own tat­toos. In this way, she draws a di­rect line be­tween past and present, be­tween the liv­ing and the dead. While some nar­ra­tive as­pects of her work are ex­pli­cated by the ac­com­pa­ny­ing text, oth­ers re­main elu­sive to the viewer. Re­gard­less, one still can ap­pre­ci­ate the sim­plic­ity of the masks and the be­nign sense of their pres­ence.

The text pan­els, printed on metal in a stately pre­sen­ta­tion, are wisely kept at a dis­tance from the ob­jects of art. Only one panel is in­cluded for each of sev­eral sec­tions, and each sec­tion rep­re­sents a body or se­ries of work. This al­lows the viewer to ap­proach each piece on its own terms, ready to en­gage with it, rather than mostly read­ing about it. The text helps ex­plain Simp­son’s mo­ti­va­tions in cre­at­ing each se­ries, and those mo­ti­va­tions are of­ten in­tensely per­sonal. Each work, and the ex­hibit as a whole, re­flects the artist’s own na­ture and feels like a self-por­trait. In fact, a state­ment by the artist on one of the text pan­els de­scribes them as such.

But most of the works don’t bear the ti­tle “self­por­trait.” An ex­cep­tion is a sculp­ture from 2016 made from clay, steel, leather, and wire, in which Simp­son imag­ines her­self as a V-6 auto en­gine — a hu­man form with metal parts that look like an en­gine over­tak­ing her torso. On one hand, the work re­flects her in­ter­est in work­ing on old cars (she drives a souped-up El Camino named af­ter famed Santa Clara pot­ter Maria Martinez); on the other hand, she also com­pares the work, as the text panel ex­plains, to a preg­nancy (she felt as if her body were an en­gine run­ning on its own mo­men­tum).

Some of her fig­u­ra­tive works dis­play a sub­tle an­drog­yny. They don’t have the youth­ful face of Simp­son, per se, and ap­pear nei­ther male nor fe­male, nei­ther old nor young. These are war­rior fig­ures from a body of work called Simp­son cre­ated one life-sized bust rep­re­sent­ing each of the car­di­nal

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