Laura Lark's "Liveable Forest" Is Cool as Ice

Ruin by Laura Lark
Ruin by Laura Lark

This winter, the closest you can come to ice is at the Devin Borden Gallery. Laura Lark's latest show with Borden, "The Liveable Forest," turns the gallery into a cool forest of silver and white. From the piles of brick on the ground, topped by deer and sirens, to the Tyvek the Houston artist uses as a canvas, the space is coated in shiny silver and stretches of white.

The human dwellers of this forest are equally cool -- portraits of Steve McQueen, Jane Fonda and a trio of lounging, longhaired women hang throughout the space, with silver strands of faux leaves hanging from the ceiling. The images of McQueen and Fonda, pulled from old magazine photo shoots, are meticulously made through stippling -- a seemingly simple, elementary task of making many, many black dots, here with a Sharpie marker, with the dots denser in some parts, less so in others to create the desired image. It's a technique Lark has used before, but is still completely awe-inspiring. Other works are made with watercolor, in smooth, blue strokes that look light and easy in comparison despite their own painterly skill.

Lark has chosen one of Steve McQueen's most enduring images -- his 1962 Harper's Bazaar cover -- to re-create, but she crops out any white space, so that even the magazine name just reads "Azaa," and just focuses on his grinning mug, draped by a seemingly disembodied arm. Lark's black-and-white stippling technique makes him ghostly, as if McQueen is slowly disappearing. In a second dotted-Sharpie replica of the movie star, McQueen comes off more menacing than sexy, as the lipstick marks on his forehead and mouth once implied, with his hard, cold stare coming back at you.

Fonda, on the other hand, looks more like a goddess than ever in a long, striking profile, based on an image when she was a teenager, forever young.

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There's a lot going on here, from the nostalgic, vintage 1960s aesthetic to apparent comments on celebrity and obsession to references to mythology. Then there's the theme of nature, with the silver, hanging leaves, like drapes, juxtaposed with the random building materials, from the Tyvek to the piles of bricks, arranged like pedestals, as if you're walking through a crumbling house that over time has become overrun with the elements. All that's a lot to decompress -- maybe too much, as, despite the consistent sheen of silver, it comes off a bit muddled. But it's still captivating, strong stuff.

Laura Lark's "The Liveable Forest" at Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main, now through April 7. For more information, check out the gallery's Web site.

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