The Shape of the Earth and Other Artistic Fictions
Featuring visual artist Carla Gannis and poet Justin Petropoulos, the show is the couple’s collaborative project of poems and drawings based on text redactions of Edna Kenton’s compendium of folklore on the shape of the Earth, The Book of Earths (1928).
The pair have conjured up a body of work — videos, drawings, sculptures, and installations — from Kenton’s compilation of bizarre ancient stories, including such fantastic tales as the Babylonian theory of a boat-shaped earth to the Aztec rendering of the earth as a cross.
The George Gallery on Princesses and Perversions
The Sacred Geometry of the Feminine
Excerpt: Leah Oates: What is your background, and what was your progression as an artist?
Carla Gannis: I’m originally from a small town in North Carolina. In third grade, for a school project, I made a model of New York City (complete with little miniature taxi cabs and people). I suppose even then I knew I wanted to be in “the City” one day. As a kid I had a fascination with miniatures. I had three dollhouses that I took great care in furnishing and decorating. And I created the most elaborate, often Gothic, stories for all my dollhouse people. Sometimes I think I’m still doing a very similar thing content-wise.
That said, there has been a great deal of change in my process along the way. Until 1996 or so, I was a painter, an oil painter. My father introduced me to computers when I was in high school, took me to computer graphics conferences, encouraged me to be open to technology, but at the time and throughout six years of art school, I couldn’t conceive making my own art with anything but traditional mediums. My opinions on that certainly changed by the time I got to New York City. I cut up old paintings and began to reassemble them, making them into reliefs with strange forms jutting out. Soon I was no longer painting surfaces, but covering them with cloth, wallpaper, resin, stickers, or texts I found from Internet searches. I began to experiment with creating installations of found objects, Xeroxes, body photographs I’d take, cut up, and reassemble. The work of Annette Messager was very influential to me at the time. Before long I found video and spent a few years making moving images instead of objects or static works. Through video and digital editing I found the computer—the tool I use the most today for digital print work and some interactive experiments.
Devil in a red dress
....Gannis has depicted Jezebels before, along with other very American memories. She creates digital collages of often staged photographs, which she then paints over digitally as well. Her images reside half in Hollywood and half in someone's home or front yard, not unlike reality television. Men almost get their way with women, but the women press closer to the picture plane and slide further from anonymity into myth. The formula sounds ripe for John Currin, but Gannis's cool eye and hot colors make no allowance for his casual irony and lechery. She has the technique now to strike back.
The lighting, color, and compositions look right out of film stills, while up close the surfaces look spookily close to painting. One or two prints do adopt Welles's deep focus and the sidelong glances of early Cindy Sherman. Others use a narrow focus and artificial light to give the foreground actors more immediacy and to develop their emotional isolation. Some wear variants on the red dress that got Davis in deep trouble with Henry Fonda and New Orleans, including a Marilyn Monroe type who hands the DJ a record—perhaps Edith Piaf's "Jezebel." The quotations may extend to a woman with slick, short hair dyed bright red and a cell phone at her narrow waist. She leans across a table like the bored siren in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère transported to the Lower East Side...
The New Pop Art: Culture Vultures
NEW YORK ARTS MAGAZINE
By Leah Oates
"Culture Vulture" is a diverse group show that highlights art that employs popular culture as a visual starting point. Each artist in the show utilizes current and familiar visual symbols--appropriating them, toying with them, and reinventing them--though some do this with more originality than others. The curatorial statement includes a quote from Carl Andre that reminds us, "Art is what we do. Culture is what is done to us." There are several standouts in this show
Carla Gannis' work is a digital photo collage of the interior of a home in Anywhere, Middle America. A pink "I Dream Of Genie" pops out of the middle of a grey living room. The power in this piece exists in its strangeness. The domestic space and its residents appear drab, monochromatic. The work implies that the inner life of these individuals is only activated through watching television and connecting to popular media icons.
Travelogue | Carla Gannis
Look again, and theres a strange scene coming into focus. Rub your eyes, squintare you seeing what you think youre seeing? A cowgirl Salome serves a severed head. A Girl Scout is called to heaven in rapture. Mutated beasts are put down, as if to cover an experiment gone awry.
Carla Gannis knocks the sense out of reality. She assembles pieces of Southern life, Americana and pop culturecommonalities of life "down home"and puts them to use in narratives that suggest something just aint right. Shes prone to looking for the bugs under rocks, to see what lurks beyond the front porches and brick churches of the American landscape. What she finds can be as ominous as a car ride with a stranger, as ugly as coercion, or as bizarre as sexual ecstasy in a diner.
Theres a gothic sensibility at work in Ganniss narratives, informed as much by filmmakers as novelists. Surrounded by her work, the mind begins to wonder how David Lynch might shoot a Carson McCullers story from a Quentin Tarantino script. These number among the influences on her work, but Ganniss gothic impulse is very much in the tradition of Southern storytelling. Fables often get more embellished in the retelling, with each narrator adding her own baroque details. But dont look for easy morals here. Ganniss narratives are unsettling, and in that discomfort, she steers away from tidy endings.
The works of the TRAVELOGUE series belong to a larger epic churning in the artists imagination. In this collage of scenes, we get a glimpse of a great American novel at work.
To read Sampling Identity, Essay by David Gibson + A Rose Isn't A Rose Isn't a Rose, Interview with Judith Barry: http://www.carlagannis.com/html/TravelogueEssays.html
NEW YORK ARTS MAGAZINE
Then I had the chance to catch the last day of Carla Gannis' solo show at Wax Gallery on West 21st Street, titled Travelogue. I've been following her work for a number of years now, and I was pleased to see a stable growth in the quality of her ironical drawings. Her main theme is still women's condition, and how this can turn into an advantage, together with a filmic and surreal vision of everyday situations that always bring out a smile. Her newest digital work, a mixture of 3D graphic and Photoshop technique, not only is extremely innovative, but it's used in such a subtle way that after looking at the prints for a few seconds you completely forget about how they're made and concentrate on the psychological depth of the message. I don't get why a commercial gallery hasn't picked her yet.
Entire article: http://www.nyartsmagazine.com/pages/nyam_document.php?nid=47&did=642
Habit of Creation // interviews // CARLA GANNIS
Her painterly nature, however, has an obvious influence on her work, giving it a rare sense of depth and content. "A couple of years ago I decided to put my paintbrushes down. I started meeting a lot of people in new media, and the excitement over creating these new languages of communication intrigued me" She explains.
With that, Carla went on to create a virtual alter ego: Sister Gemini performance artist, web-hacker. Through Sister Gemini, Carla is able to put person a into an often lifeless system. Somewhat reflective of Carla's own schisms between her day job and her artwork, Sister Gemini is slightly unequipped socially, so as a performer, she demonstrates her creations by entering once secure domains. During the weekdays, Carla works at a commercial web design studio. Her profession allows her to be creative, while learning technical skills to incorporate into her artwork. "There is a wonderful dialogue between what I'm doing in media and my art," she explains. "All that's going on inside has to find an outlet, and I suppose the way I've chosen to output it, using the instruments of digital technology as my tools, requires quite a bit of time and energy."
With that acknowledgement, Carla is thankful for the structure that her day job provides. The rest of her time "and really all of it" is used for her art. With the creative form she has taken on, Carla collaborates frequently, placing still more importance on scheduling. "The more elements I involve in the project technically, the more I rely on scheduling other people or working with their schedule. When you collaborate with more people, you have to step back and know that you can't do it all when you want to."
Reflectively, she adds- "You have to step back and say, "I'm not going to finish this tonight. It's just technically impossible. And I think that's part of the whole process."
Carla seems unperturbed with the natural uncertainties in the flows of creation. Upon meeting her, you immediately realize her obvious devotion as an artist; she's an inspirational whirlwind. She describes making art as "playing, discovering, learning, and excavating". Not working.
She finds imagery, and manipulates it to fit into her stories. Or sometimes the stories are guided by what she finds. Ideas may be shifted by individuals involved in the project, or even by what happened at work that day.
"This is a process that serves no utilitarian or functional purpose, but to think that someone else might look at what I do and feel something that they might not have felt or thought otherwise seems the ultimate validation for going far and deep. Late hours, missed lunches, the phone turned off because I couldn't stop concentrating to pay the bill..."
Using modern outlets such as video and the web, Carla can do what she loves, which is to tell non-linear stories. Viewers can participate in her narratives, redirecting them, and reshaping them. It is, for Carla, a way of forming interacting communities in an otherwise singular world. The fantasy worlds Carla creates are believable, because they are genuinely rooted in her reality. She reads the waking world as symbolically as her dreams and in watching the blossoming of her creations, she is ultimately witnessing the unfolding of her own persona. With her realizations, she offers constantly evolving art forms that transcend as we do, perhaps before.
Waterfront Weekly, June 1999
Carla Gannis Scandals Luxury Resorts spoofs the Sandals Caribbean Resort vacation ads, putting some fun into her socio-political critique. There are two racks filled with vacation-type postcards (from which I mistakenly though I could snag one) promoting Scandals a new kind of "luxury resort for couples only". The black, white and baby blue cards feature an array of holiday revelers sporting machine guns and pistols as they cavort in generalized vacation tableaus. Juxtaposed with this set up are the Scandals Action Figures. Each tiny paramilitary, bikini-clad doll is armed with a rifle or handgun and comes in it own cellophane box. Live the experience; Take home the action figure! This all brings to mind American colonialism, militarism and expansionism along with our tendency to consider the "exotic" and tropical world our playground. Aside from what the heavy artillery suggests about the violence of some relationships, the card featuring three sailboats in formation, emblazoned with "Paxil," "Zoloft," and "Prozac" speaks to the contemporary expectation for emotional smooth sailing.