Benjamin Morris visits two alumni shows, by artists Maxx Sizeler and Frahn Koerner, at UNO St. Claude Gallery.
Maxx Sizeler and Frahn Koerner
UNO St. Claude Gallery
2429 St. Claude Avenue
May 14–June 5, 2016
Questions of gender and identity are on display at two concurrent exhibitions at UNO St. Claude Gallery, both organized by University of New Orleans professor Rebecca Lee Reynolds. In their respective shows, Maxx Sizeler and Francesca (“Frahn”) Koerner, both alumni of UNO’s MFA program, offer powerful meditations on the nature of the self.
Sizeler’s first show in New Orleans in five years, “Abracadabra (The Art of Gender Illusion)” is a series of works depicting objects that harbored great emotional attachment for him as a young child, prior to his transition from female to male. Stereotypical symbols of boyhood such as toy pistols, Batman, and cowboy attire take on an added significance when seen through the eyes of a young girl ostracized for her feelings of inner masculinity, as do the magic wands, capes, and top hats that Sizeler used to escape into a more befitting world. Caroline and Maxx, a recorded conversation of their personal narratives of gender transition, accompanies the canvases; here, though, the inherent silence of Sizeler’s painted objects and figurines poignantly reminds us that difficulties of expression, especially in the very young, in no way mean the absence of feeling.
Internal investigations are similarly underway in “The Scales Fell From Her Eyes,” Koerner’s series of paintings of abstract geometric forms and repeated structures. Attempting to visualize the process of self-realization, Koerner suggests that what we call “the self” is hardly slave to chaos. Where she paints inner landscapes, those spaces are highly arranged, neither fragmented nor full of randomness or instability. Rather, Koerner—frequently employing a palette of cool colors for her carefully drawn forms, including symbolic structures such as spirals and pyramids—demonstrates that order and logic can arise even from the most ineffable of places. In both shows, the works are best approached in solitude, in the mood for introspection.