Immortal Artifacts

Aside from eagerly anticipating the day I leave for my honeymoon and then my second wedding reception, I couldn’t wait for Kukula’s first solo exhibit at the Corey Helford Gallery, opening the day before I left the country. Like I mentioned before, I’d been familiar with her work for over a year and I was excited to learn that she was opening at a local gallery. Ever since I discovered the Corey Helford Gallery, I’ve been enthralled with all their exhibits.

Kukula’s paintings center on feminine, doll-like figures, often surrounded by objects with sometimes clear, sometimes obscure symbolic meaning. The work registers the influence of both classical European art forms and contemporary pop culture. In her figures’ poses Kukula recalls classical portraiture, yet the style is manifestly modern and pop-influenced. Kukula’s compositions thereby disclose her personal struggles as mediated by a rich multi-cultural heritage.”

And without further delay, I present to you Kukula’s Immortal Artifacts:

I began work on this show with the vague intention of dealing with the relationship between the consumption and production of art and culture. I have a great love for classical art and music from the Renaissance to Art Deco, those pieces with enduring resonance. But like many artists, I also collect all kinds of old objects. To these artifacts I am drawn because, like a death mask, they are the imprints of things that are gone.

Many people say that my characters resemble dolls. For me dolls represent immortal youth. But they are also the remains of something that has passed, and when they are antiques, of someone who has died. The first antique doll I bought was one produced by the German-Jewish firm Kammer & Reinhardt at the beginning of the twentieth century. While this delicate bisque doll survived two world wars, both the manufacturer and the original owner are gone forever. So the very immortality of any artifact is always reminiscent of the death of something intimately connected to it.

As I began making sketches for this exhibition I realized that precisely because art is immortal it is also morbid. Art survives—it carries within traces of its dead producer. So it represents not only the eternal, but also the ephemeral. Art becomes artifact. Being the crumby narcissist that I am, I have noticed that I produce art in order to leave my own artifacts—in other words, my own death mask. And so the whole process of painting becomes rather macabre, like writing your own requiem.

But the process is also vital because it always involves taking in cultural artifacts and giving them new life. The paintings in this exhibition try to hint at the obscure process by which culture flows in and out of individuals. In several paintings I use music to represent this flow. In others I try to represent the pain and sacrifice the process often involves; in still others the way in which artifacts quickly move beyond their creator’s grasp. As with the two figures holding a ribbon between them, the surgical forceps, pocket watch, teapot and teacup form an exchange of artifacts, but its direction and significance remains mysterious. –

Naturally, the inspiration and meaning behind her work is most clear to the artist herself. My interpretations are much more obvious. “The death of innocence” isn’t as profound an explanation of her art, is it…?

Per uze, I spent time soaking up the eye candy, all the while processing the meaning of the art before me. I invited my husband and cousins to accompany me on this outing. Because my husband and his cousin seem to be the type more interested in video games and eating at restaurants favored by self-proclaimed “foodies,” I worried they wouldn’t find my interest in this kind of art very interesting. I should’ve known better as they both claimed to love it.

My cousin, on the other hand, was not a fan. “It’s too painful!” she remarked, which, ironically, is a compliment to the artist as I’m almost sure that was an emotion she wanted to convey. Painful or not, her mission was accomplished.

I wish I could walk around with rose vines intwined so easily in my hair.

This has got to be my favorite painting thus far. I think I’m enamored with the My Little Ponies.

If she sold little porcelain renditions of these dolls, I might start up a collection. Just a little fix for my small Lolita addiction. I swear I own costumes similar to these figurines.


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