By Stacy-Lynn Waddell
First Fridays in Raleigh always start out the same: I check out what’s listed in The Independent, meet an available cohort for burgers at Char-Grill on Hillsborough Street, then cruise around the galleries, artists studios and other such venues to satisfy my inner image junkie. I make an effort to see everything that even peaks my curiosity as a blurb in the paper. This can be tricky. Sometimes my radar is way-off and my burger ends-up being the best part of my evening. Artist Tory Wright’s Pleasure Seekers (Feb 6-Feb 28) at Lump Gallery/Projects in Raleigh, NC was much better than my burger-and it’s hard to beat Char-Grill.
As soon as I walked into the gallery, the two wall hangings (to the left) or sheets-as Tory calls them in the studio-grabbed my attention. I was familiar with Tory’s work, so the kamikaze effort that she engages in with her Exacto and the exaggerated oozing and drippping of tears, chains and other organic shapes was not new to me, but there was something different here.
The wall hangings are so delicate and deftly executed that I was even skeptical about whether or not they were actually made by hand-but they are. Closer inspection reveals the presence of the artist’s hand. Every oozing drop and loop-de-loop is cut from Duratrands-the large, illuminated ad sheets. Tory shared that her time in retail turned her attention towards this material as well as publications like Vogue and W Magazine. Re-appropriating materials from popular culture is not new. Many artists turn someone else’s trash into treasure, but Tory attempts to go another step.
In an effort to distill the messages from fashion powerhouses like Calvin Klein and Gucci, Tory sets a goal for herself-a challenge really-to cut away as much material as she can to create images that more succinctly get to the heart of American lust and our exhaustive search for beauty. These works also attempt to re-define value systems by elevating a discarded object for re-consideration. The thing is-most of the surface is gone and the viewer is only left with minimal printed information-but it’s enough. The wall hangings-installed much like they are in their former life as ads-are as much about the shadow as they are about the cut lines and curlicues that Tory utilizes. They are also more beautiful in this life because they are free of the overpriced, Madison Avenue spin, so often foregrounded in such images.
The shadows are as provocative as the pieces, so I bounce back and forth between the two trying to gather as much information as I can. Each time, I find something different to look at. Chatting with Tory, I asked if she planned to record these works at various times of day as to watch the cascade of shadows morph and change as the day passed. I hope that she does.
It’s additionally interesting to know that the shapes that Tory works with come from her time as a painter. In our chat she shared, “I was painting the same shapes over and over again. I realized that these shapes were distinctly bodily, but also have triple and double meanings.These meanings are also tied to influences from artists like Sue Williams, Phillip Guston and Barry McGee.” Her new mission was to flatten the forms, by drawing, moreover cutting them as shapes.
There is other work in the show: drawings, a light box, etc. In fact, a piece entitled Kimora, which in part, graces the cover of the show card, is another beauty. Here, the tears and drops are more like scales and Kimora Lee Simmons becomes some sort of fashionista-cum-amphibian. The wall hangings though, are my favorites.
A recent grad of MICA’s MFA program, Tory mentioned that the sheets had been traditionally layered as in her thesis show at MICA. The singular presentation is new and not entirely complete as an articulation. This is an artist who likes to push further when she feels like things are getting a little comfortable. Consider this: Most times, she does not begin with a drawing on top of the surface. The cutting process is organic from start to finish.
As I did my last scan through the space before leaving, I couldn’t resist gently blowing (on the DL of course) on the sheets to see them move a little and blur their projected shadows. They were still waving ever-so-gently as I walked out. Seeing this got me excited-as good art tends to do.