Exhibition Pick: Lorna Williams

Ashley L. Voss looks at Lorna Williams’ sculptures, on view at Barrister’s Gallery, that draw on the body for inspiration.

Lorna Williams, trap(ped), 2011. Mixed materials (detail). Courtesy the artist and Barrister’s Gallery, New Orleans.

Lorna Williams
Barrister's Gallery

2331 St. Claude Avenue


September 10 - October 1, 2016

“in'hərənt lore,” Lorna Williams’ current exhibition at Barrister’s Gallery, includes a selection of sculptural works that exist independently of any clear logic. Outer structures are eliminated to expose their multifaceted inner workings. Mindfully reconfiguring found objects into often anatomical figures, Williams creates dynamic structures that reference themes of birth and mortality.

Mangled branches of a cypress swamp tree are arranged to resemble a torso and legs in trap(ped), 2011. The abstract work depicts two tiny doll hands reaching outwards from a confinement of zippers. Here, Williams suggests childbirth and the distinctly female conflict between self-preservation and self-sacrifice—as pregnancy and labor can be physically grueling on the body but are necessary for the continuation of the species. Porcelain teeth allude to the folklore of vagina dentata, which warns men of the injury that may result from sexual intercourse and expresses both a fear and empowerment of female sexuality.

In held, djet, 2013, a taxidermied snake with plaster teeth sits atop a solid root system from a tree. The roots are suspended with black rope within a pyramid structure of copper piping. As snakes, who have historically represented fertility, shed their skin, they are thought to be reborn. In this work, the snake, once living but now frozen in death, serves as a metaphor for both life and death. “in'hərənt lore,” does not definitively resolve questions relating to the meaning of life but instead presents some essential characteristics of the human condition. By constructing complicated, layered structures, Williams reveals the ordinarily concealed to expose the desires that seem inherent to staying alive.