Vanity Case

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Media Release: August, 2004. 

An exhibition opening at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery this weekend offers up a selection of work sure to tease, delight and intrigue gallery visitors.

Vanity Case brings together the work of nine Wellington artists and designers: Trevor Byron, Louise Clifton, Arlo Edwards, Martin F. Emond, Amelia Handscomb, Steph Lusted, Sarah Jane Parton and Kate Wyatt.

Although these nine artists work in a diverse range of media, from spray-paint to sculpture, they share common interests in notions of beauty, desire, love, loss and identity. Michael Hirschfeld Gallery Curator Sarah Farrar makes a comparison between these works and the tradition of vanitas paintings – heavily symbolic paintings that reflect on beauty, death, morality and the transience of human life.

Vanity Case is a unique chance to see the work of an exciting and diverse range of Wellington artists and designers,’ says Sarah. “The exhibition brings together everything from jeweller Trevor Byron’s bristly rings and cuff links to the street art of Mephisto Jones to Amelia Handscomb’s luscious photography.”

Vanity Case is an exhibition rich in symbolism, but also a very personal response to contemporary society,” Sarah says.

In Steph Lusted’s brooches, for example, butterfly and cicada specimens are tenderly preserved in silver casings, creating small and precious mementoes. Lusted is also showing small resin pieces in the shapes of crossbones and butterflies, symbols of death and danger and change and femininity respectively.

Also exploring the temporary nature of the world is Mephisto Jones, well-known in Wellington for his painting, stencil and illustration works around the city. Jones has created a new work for Vanity Case, bringing his street art into the gallery. Jones’ work, destined to be painted over at the end of the exhibition, acts like a calling card: I was here, remember me.

A photograph by Louise Clifton, titled Pantyhose is both bizarre and intriguing. Clifton says that she is interested in the shared attributes of “the attractive and the repulsive, the decadent and the obsessive”. Her photograph of a disembodied prosthetic leg dressed in pantyhose alludes to department store hosiery displays, at the same time calling to mind stories of people with foot fetishes who steal women’s stockings for perverse pleasure.

The Vanity Case artists and curator will discuss the exhibition in a public floortalk at 5.30pm on Wednesday 1 September. Entry to the floortalk is free