Hilary Tsai reviews "The Emotional Life of Objects" (Willamette Week)

By Hilary Tsai


A three-tiered glass cake topped with a pink grenade greets you at Bullseye Projects' wonderland of a group show, The Emotional Life of Objects. Featuring three artists whose work couldn't be more different, the show is like a Suicide Girl's kitchen, a free pile made into sculpture, and then the china cupboard at Versailles. Just past Silvia Levenson's confection is a deflated cushion sculpted by Heidi Schwegler, and a mirrored case of goblets by Dante Marioni.


The combination is unnerving, as wedding cakes and weaponry fuse in Levenson's work. A coffee percolator made of pink glass has its rim pierced like a punk kid's ear, the set of frosted mugs with one handle missing reads "Something Ain't Right" and two cut-relief pistols are framed like your grandmother's wall art. Subtlety is absent here, as Levenson parodies both gun violence and the pharmaceutical industry's empty promises outright. "Reality is merely an illusion" is printed across five rosy cosmetic bottles. Next to them, The Pursuit of Happiness is a cabinet filled with candy-colored bottles labeled "Love" or "Antidote."


If Levenson's focus is the home, Schwegler's is the garage. A kiddie pool hangs from a nail on the wall. Sculptures of forlorn-looking objects are propped on the floor or pedestals: tattered blue jeans, a bent traffic cone, three gloves, one sneaker, a deflated cushion. She replicates the stuff of yard-sale leftovers with loving attention to detail. In Separation Anxiety 06 (i.e., a crumpled cushion), a pillow cast in opaque glass is covered in folds and wrinkles that look too intricate to be solid.

Levenson's and Schwegler's works almost beg to be touched, but the third installation borders on elitist. Thirty Venetian goblets peer at you from an infinity-mirrored display case titled Cups by Marioni. In rose quartz pink or sapphire blue, the glasses are a jewel-toned collection with ornate stems or razor-sharp modern edges. One particular "cup" is a voluptuous bowl balanced on a squat bottom and tapering up to a narrow, dainty neck. The glass barrier here is a tease, as the shimmery sculptures pull you closer like "display only" toys at Christmas.


While Marioni's endless mirrors and Levenson's pill bottles make for a visual free fall through fantastical objects, we could get grounded by Schweg-ler's everyday relics. But what's a wonderland trip with feet on the ground?


SEE IT: The Emotional Life of Objects is at Bullseye Projects, 300 NW 13th Ave., 227-0222. Through March 26.



January 20, 2016