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Alyssa C. Solomon's assembled figures give life to the particles of our cast-away society.

Scavenger Art


Alyssa C. Salomon "Rereading": Marionettes, Photographs, Curios"
Astra Gallery
1301 W. Main St.
Through Oct. 30

Alyssa C. Salomon's studio is the ultimate amassment of scavenged treasure. A vast accumulation of feathers, wing nuts, flattened bottle caps, jetsam from vehicles, wasp nests, mouse bones and more awaits transformation into the odd little characters that she assembles and packs off for a modest journey.

Salomon is a recycler, but more than that she is a pantheist, recognizing in each and every particle of our cast-away society the elements of a collective soul. Because her glues and delicate joints don't always hold up to pressure, one imagines these little pieces as part of the animated ballet of time. Choreographed by gravity and careless handling, the bits and parts release occasionally to change partners, positions and roles. When Salomon wants permanence from them, she photographs them.

In photographs, her constructed figures pose for their portrait before the grand counterfeit views of antique cabinet cards. Tiny travelers into a sepia past, they attempt to look at ease by standing bolt upright, or sometimes cavort with abandon, before a Victorian studio drape or a scene of a Tuscan garden. In other works, Salomon applies the found elements to the faces of long-ago sitters — people for whom dignity was once an essential, and perpetuity a desire. Salomon abstains from any deference for romance or immortality. Laying these aspirations as a cat would at the doorstep of humor, she insinuates the folly and the charm of human vanity.

In "Rereading," her current show at Astra Gallery, a found statuette named Dante is portrayed as a deadpan tourist in Italy. Dante is as devoid of animation as Salomon's assemblages are full of it. The slapstick of Dante is his repeat appearance, suited up as he is for eternal ennui before the wonders of the civilized world.

"Rereading" features a revolution of her homo summa into marionettes, a return to a previous interest. It is a direction that gives additional activity to the figures, suggesting mobility in their strings, and imposing agency through their presumed handler. Not specifically designed to be used in puppetry, Salomon has mastered in each marionette the art of descriptive posture, while requiring them to hold still. They do gesticulate delightfully when moved, however, with an idiosyncrasy that intensifies their character. Their hearts, arms and legs are constructed of such items as describe their abilities.

Several of the works, like Dante, are named and shaped in recognition of previous artists. Picasso shows up doing "Guernica," Chagall flies airily overhead, and Jorge Luis Borges is presented in homage, constructed of South American travel books.

Salomon's sense of wit and cognition is unrelenting. If, at times, it seems over the proverbial edge, she shall be forgiven. She is, in her other life, a tax accountant, which may reveal an understanding of what indications of order, absurdity and priority she brings to her art work. One can easily imagine her observing a client registering utter dismay at the bureaucratic conundrum before them. Surely she may be inspired to faithfully render a portrait of sensory overload with such appropriately mismatched nuts, washers and abused paintbrush bristles as would sensitively do the job. She might even be accused of realism, given the

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