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THE ART GALLERIES

Wilshire Center

July 17, 1987|KRISTINE MCKENNA

Katherine Wells is a voodoo priestess of the Georgia O'Keeffe variety. A multimedia artist who also works as a writer and poet, Wells chooses bleached, white bone as the central expressive tool in her visual art, with the explanation that "bone speaks to me of the instinctual side of ourselves and is, for me, inseparable from the soul." Freighted as it is with associations of the fleeting nature of fleshy existence, death, and purification, bone is the ideal vehicle for Wells' metaphysical ideas, which are further fleshed out with feathers, beads, fabric and twine.

More often than not Wells achieves the mystical hum she strives for, however, her visual poetry sometimes gets a bit heavy-handed. Three toy dollies sporting small animal skulls where their rubber heads should be feel cheap and graceless. A bone sporting a rosary and a brown robe is finished to resemble the body of a sleeping Franciscan monk; one is tempted to write it off as a cute crafts project.

Wells' work is infinitely better when it demands something of the viewer's imagination. "Bone Speaks Slowly and Long" features a massive bone shaped like a harpoon (it's so large one assumes it must be from a whale). Wells does little to this elegant and magical found treasure other than present it in such a way that the viewer really looks at it. That's more than enough. (Richard/Bennett Gallery, 332 1/2 La Brea Ave., to Aug. 5.).

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