Illusions and Deceptions
Lois Lambert Gallery
March 19 – May 7, 2022
In Illusions and Deceptions, we can’t help but ask what really lies behind the veil in Tom Eckert’s enigmatic show at Lois Lambert Gallery. The title seems relevant, as the objects are indeed not what they seem. Indeed, the over-arching sculptural works appear to be light-weight arrangements made of soft fabric, yet at closer inspection, are hard as stone.
Furthermore, the viewer might guess that ceramic or porcelain may have been the medium used to achieve such smooth white forms: wrong again. These works were actually made from wood. Basswood, which has a soft, malleable texture, has lent itself perfectly to the various techniques, including carving, bending, laminating and painting, that the artist employed to create his effects. Additional 3-dimensional elements in the exhibit include common objects that are made from rocks, which are paired with the wooden cloth to suggest ambiguous narratives.
For example, Insidious (all works 2021), shows a rifle whose shiny black snout and rear end menacingly poke out from a piece of satiny draped cloth. The cognitive dissonance of brutality combined with sensuality that this image evokes is striking.
Hour is a wall-hung piece which prompts unresolvable questions. A sheer curtain panel hangs from a curtain rod, while behind it, an obscured silhouette of either a man or woman watches us through its semitransparent layer. A hand is faintly pressed against the curtain’s surface, as if to establish a connection with the viewer that the material realm would never permit. We can almost imagine this ghostlike figure vanishing from sight at the slightest murmur, leaving us wondering whether it was just our imagination playing tricks.
Another alluring wall-hung piece, Camisole, shows a mass of silky folds comprising a woman’s slip and pinned to the wall from various points. Where there once may have been fleshy shoulders, weightless straps droop down over a hollow garment: Whoever inhabited its pearly contours seems to have tossed it aside like a forgotten dream.
On the same ethereal note, a collection of three greyish white handkerchiefs, Sacis Lintuem, also hang from the wall. At first glance, it seems they are adorned with ornate, Victorian-like designs, yet up close one can see that these formations are more likely the result of much domestic wear and tear, or perhaps the ashy relics of a smoldered, bygone event. Regardless of the intended message, Eckert has crafted his subjects with astonishing finesse and harmony of form, focusing on the emotional reactions these objects might provoke, above all else.
Cover image: Insidious; all images courtesy of Lois Lambert Gallery, photographed by the author