You know that stereotype about preachers' kids? It cuts both ways. Margo Sawyer's parents raised her in an agnostic household, so naturally, she developed a fascination with all things sacred.
Sawyer's father was a diplomat, and she and her mother were among the few to visit Egypt during the 1973 October War. The 15-year-old had the country's ancient sites almost all to herself -- no doubt a spectacular and haunting experience. It's one that continues to influence her work as an artist, instilling in her "a passion for sculpture, architecture and painting as an integral whole," she has said.
Finding Western sacred spaces repressive and exclusive, Sawyer has traveled to India, Myanmar, Thailand and Japan, becoming part of the time-honored -- and now clichéd -- tradition of disillusioned Westerners seeking inspiration in Asia. Her fascination with the spiritual and architectural practices of Hinduism and Buddhism is evident in the works on display in her latest exhibition, "Margo Sawyer: Contemplative Spaces."
Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston,
Opens from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 23. Through June 13; 713-743-9530. Free.
Blue was inspired by the painted plaster houses of the Indian city of Jodhpur. The piece covers the floor with a mosaiclike accumulation of painted boxes, frames and panels. Although primarily blue, the symbolic color of the Hindu god Krishna, the piece also has occasional flavorful interruptions of red, yellow and green.
Making its debut at the exhibition is Yellow, a curtain of glass rods that echoes the beaded shrouds that covered ancient Egyptian mummies. For Sawyer, this jubilantly colored installation refers to ascension and otherworldliness. The golden hue is, after all, the ideal of alchemy, the science of transformation.
Sawyer has a fascinating biography and creates work derived from a host of culturally diverse influences. She's on a quest for the sublime, for a contemporary contemplative space. Does the work live up to the grandeur of its inspirations? We must each choose our path in this world, so you're gonna have to decide that for yourself.
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