Michael Petry's 'Bad Restoration' Shows There's Still Beauty in the Damage

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There's a bit of backstory to Michael Petry's new body of work. While the Texas-born, London-residing multi-media artist was in a residency last year at Sir John Soane's Museum in London, the museum was undergoing a restoration project. This idea of restoration pervades his pieces -- they're works that are seemingly ruined. At the same time, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray played a major influence -- the idea of a piece representing the passage of time, reflecting back an image of a person that isn't really there.

The result is "Bad Restoration," eight glass mirror pieces that are currently hanging in the front room of the Hiram Butler Gallery. They're called mirrors, but you wouldn't trust them to help you apply your eyeliner in the morning. They're broken, consisting of layers of thin sheets of glass and pieces of sterling silver or 24k gold, one over the other. They'll only reflect back a partial, broken form of yourself, with the intent to cause you to pause and think about how you present yourself to the world.

Or something like that. I was too distracted by the beautiful damage of the silver and gold leaf pieces to notice my own shattered reflection. In each piece, the gold or silver have complex layers and texture to them. They look at turns like ridges, the contours of fingerprints, or, the silver especially, broken surfaces of ice. The surface of all of these images has been compromised, but they're being displayed nonetheless, warts and all.

It's a funny and completely modern thought -- this idea of constantly wanting to improve and restore, and that going badly despite your best intentions. And yet, here they are, all eight mirrors, on display, even in this supposed "badness." There's still beauty in the damage.

"Michael Petry: Bad Restoration" at Hiram Butler Gallery, 4520 Blossom Street, runs now through September 22. For more information, call (713) 863-7097 or visit dbhbg.com.

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