Vadis Turner opens at Zeitgeist Gallery in Nashville, TN with Bedfellows (through December 22, 2018), an exhibition of highly-formal sculptural works and wall reliefs that reframe materials and processes of labor often associated with domesticity. The Nashville-based artist is best known for her transformative use of gendered materials in abstract reliefs and sculptures about female experience(s). The latest body of work from Turner since her solo exhibition, Tempest, at the Frist Art Museum in 2017—which highlighted the artists expressive ribbon-drip reliefs and breast milk encaustics—Bedfellows is a continuation of Turner’s formal revision of archetypal domestic textiles. Yet, Bedfellows also denotes a new consideration by the artist for subtle experiences of object-duality; interior and exterior; intimate and enterable; hard and soft.
Bedfellows begins with Red Gate (2018), an immense wall relief structure made of thickly braided bedsheets dyed oxide red. Resembling the entrance of a cave or a melted waxen barrier, the relief’s heavy, fabric grille intermittently reveals the white wall it hangs on. Braids of thick bedsheets loop through the front of the gate’s lattice-like structure in haphazard ornament, forming a dense, drooping layer that reiterates the heaviness of the work’s materiality and simultaneously acts as a secondary barricade.
Provided both the intimate associations of the material, and the indexical references to an entryway or threshold, Red Gate gestures towards spaces of access and privacy, both physical and internalized. Accompanied by a small, acrylic sketch on paper that pointedly underscores the artists mark making process with a hairpin and fingers, Red Gate Study (2018) denotes a sense of visual entry into Turner’s physical and intellectual process. Indeed, encountering Red Gate, viewers are made conscious of the enormity of the work’s scale, but also of the tedious nature of it’s production. Irregularly thick, torn, and dyed various hues of crimson, the bed sheet braids that shroud the structure readily recall the artists hand at work.
Turner extends her sculptural use of braided bedsheets to include gaping, abstract basins: smaller, rounded sculptures on pedestals such as Horned Vessel (2018) and Wedged Vessel (2018) resemble mythological artifacts or futurist ceremonial baskets—a formality that disguises their material origin. While the vessels reference utilitarian objects of domesticity, Turner’s treatment of surface and interiority sunders notions of functional use. As seen with Wedged Vessel, a blackened piece of charred wood extends laterally across the opening of the white vessel—a poetic form of barricade that echoes that of Red Gate. Horned Vessel proceeds as a binary inverse; coated in a slick of tar-like black paint and resin, the vessel’s deep and narrow opening invites a wary peering inward.
One of the more surprising and enthralling material investigations in Bedfellows is a series of three differently paired sculptures made from antique quilts, Quilt Vessels, Landscape (2018), Quilt Vessels, Flickering (2018), and Black and White Quilt Vessel and Leaning Cloud Quilt Vessel (2018). Sharply edged and folded into pairs of intricate, delicate forms, the quilt objects fully embody Turner's sculptural sensitivity to material transformations evocative of shared female narratives. Coated in a lustrous glaze of resin, fabric dye, and acrylic paint, the shell-like exterior of the quilt vessel(s) crusts around the untreated interior, a conversely soft and enterable fold of storied space. Exhibited adjacent to each other, the vaguely yonic vessel openings transpose one another; dually enterable and undisclosed; formal and cerebral. Engaging with Quilt Vessels posits an experience of antique forms of female labor and materiality contiguous with an expanded vision of gender—vacillating between related states of being.