September 4 – October 4, 2021
Nancy Larrew is a multi-media artist whose interests in social impact are manifest in her inaugural solo exhibition,Family Reunion, on view at bG Gallery. In this highly conceptual series, Larrew explores the literal meaning of family connection. Inspired by lineal descent as well as the pandemic’s emotional effects of separation and reunion, these works not only speak to her personal family history but that of every living person.
Sprawled across the gallery floor is a striking installation titled Roots (components created in 2020), in which a 9-foot tree hovers over a conglomeration of stark, monochrome figures made of wood, plaster, paper, clay, and acrylic. From the tree’s base, a root system of white string stretches outward toward numerous bodies gathered in pairs. To be precise, these are Larrew’s 256 direct ancestors, each individually numbered to represent those responsible for her creation. They stand in unison, all facing the viewer, as if to proudly declare their position in the artist’s bloodline. Additional details, such as fragments of her grandmother’s quilt wrap around the base of the tree, while unique features are sculpted into each figurine’s face, all combined to illustrate the artist’s intense effort to capture the souls of eight generations, a choir, if you will, within her.
Also on display: Several interactive dioramas convey the complexities of family ties, directly and indirectly. Family Gallery (2020) offers an intimate glimpse into the creative relationship between the artist, her three siblings and mother. Inside the walls of a wooden box, miniature replicas of the sibling’s real-life artworks are critiqued by their mother, who stands in the center of the gallery in the form of a pink bird.
Wearing a crown atop discerning eyes, she is adorned with shards of mirror to embrace the sentiment that her offspring are all a reflection of her own creativity. Attached to the exterior is a crank that rotates the mother figure around the room for a complete viewing of the exhibit. Larrew’s fascination with genealogy is evident in Heirloom (2021), in which the open doors of a temple-like cabinet reveal DNA strands. The strands, illuminated by blue LED lights, are shaped by the word “trauma,” symbolizing innate trauma carried through cell memory. An interactive element is introduced through inlaid infinity mirrors, wherein the viewer’s own perpetual reflections become part of the complete aesthetic.
Additional concept-within-concept works include Family Baggage (2020), a collection of printed shopping bags that feature vintage photos of the artist’s family members, a nod to consumerism as a way of coping with generations of emotional baggage. Each bag contains a surprise anecdotal note about its corresponding photograph, to be enjoyed by the art buyer alone.
As in any dynamic family structure, the elements of love, darkness, resilience and healing are all incorporated into the show. Larrew’s ability to channel hope and desire echoed across vast networks of individuals, from both past and present, is observed throughout this monumental series.
Cover image: U5b2; images courtesy of the author