Artist uncovers angels in the trash

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By Anna Poplawska

I asked artist Sallie Wolf what Calypso means in the name of her Calypso Moon Studio, which she shares with artist Kate McDonnell. She told me that after 10 years of war, surrounded by men and living out the male ideal of the warrior, Odysseus was kidnapped by the nymph Calypso. She held him prisoner for seven years, forcing him to live a sensual but vegetative existence as he reconnected with the feminine side of his personality.

Art, she says, keeps us in touch with the feminine side and the love of beauty, things easy to lose touch with in a more competitive world.

Wolf's current exhibit, which she holds every December, is her angels series. The collages, composed of litter, force the viewer to examine what's normally considered an aesthetically unpleasant aspect of our throwaway culture. But for those who find themselves cynical or angry about litter, the surprise of this artwork is how infinitely appealing and charming these "garbage angels" truly are. We're reminded of the biblical teaching that the lowliest of us is closest to God's heart.

This sense of humbleness is a striking feature of Wolf's collages. After all, what can be more lowly and free from the sin of pride than the garbage we step on? It's particularly pronounced in "Nativity Collage #2," in which Joseph is represented by a gum wrapper that has been in every way abused, weathered, stepped on and wrinkled. His head is bowed down, as if in prayer or perhaps looking down at the baby Jesus, who is represented by another candy wrapper--small, ripped up, and lying on the ground between mother and father.

It's nighttime; the background is a piece of dark blue carbon paper with writing scratched onto it. A white arch above their heads, a scrap of paper leftover from another project, represents the stars and the moon. Two angels, flying above as if looking down from the heavens, are made of translucent wrappers that suggest their ethereal state.

All of the pieces of trash that Wolf uses in her art are completely unchanged from the state in which she found them. She merely arranges the pieces on the page to create certain impressions.

For instance, "You Will have a Long, Happy Life" is composed of a cheap, plastic cup that has been stepped on and crushed. For all its cracks and scraggly edges, it looks just like a child's angel in the snow. The round bottom of the cup is the torso, while the arms and legs are wide fan shapes. The head is the remnant of another cup, set on top, with the snow-like texture of Styrofoam. The Chinese fortune set below reads, "You will have a long, happy life." It suggests a child, who still has most of his life ahead of him.

With other angels, Wolf strays further out into creative interpretations. An example is "Menopausal Angel: Self-Portrait," in which the body is a Styrofoam cup and the head is the royal blue, round label from a bunch of bananas. Above this is a messy, chaotic bunch of string that may represent the onset of gray hair, but also suggests the chaos of what's happening in a woman's body during menopause.

Sallie Wolf's angel series is on exhibit at Calypso Moon Studio, 331B Harrison St., until early January. Hours are by appointment. Call 848-1385 to arrange a viewing.

 

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