Megan Wilson
Artweek, 'Stanley Chan & Christopher Duncan, Tucker Schwarz, Anna Von Mertens and Megan Wilson at Southern Exposure' by David Spalding, April, 2001

Stanley Chan & Christopher Duncan, Tucker Schwarz, Anna Von Mertens and Megan Wilson at Southern Exposure

Looking around at the work of the five artists featured in Southern Exposure's group show is like peering through a kaleidoscope where myriad conceptual and formal concerns reflect and echo off each other, crystallizing into surprising symmetries and unforeseen alliances. At first, the organization of the show seems quite simple. Yet moving through the exhibition, unpredictable associations arise between the works, allowing the viewer to choose from a constellation of narratives. This fractal unfolding of meanings signals the strengths of the artwork, as well as the curatorial vision that forged these fanciful cohabitations.

The floor of the lower level has been covered with the chalk outline of a giant motherboard, laying the groundwork for Anna Von Mertens's complex, captivating installation Via. Stitching together the personal and the industrial, Von Mertens has created a series of hand-dyed, elaborately embroidered quilts, which rest on slightly elevated platforms that have been assembled into a grid-like formation. Arguing for the viability of both the high tech and the handcrafted to relay information, Von Mertens's quilts transmit surprising bits of information, such as the crisscrossing of birds' migratory patterns, or carefully outlined city maps. Via, the artist has written, refers to "both a plated hole in a circuit board that allows information to pass from one layer of the board to another," and "a route that touches or passes through." Traversing the circuitry like an electric current, the viewer's body becomes another piece of information in Von Mertens's work, flickering between the domestic and the digital without being forced to choose.

Gargantuan flower forms suggest a genetic experiment spiraling out of control in Megan Wilson 's installation, The Irresistible Terror of Loveliness, which pairs science and nature in a dangerous liaison. To cover the 61-foot west wall of the gallery, Wilson has revivified the eighteenth century craft form known as quilling, composing the frightening, fragile tendrils of her flower-scape from hundreds of tiny, coiled strips of colored paper, held to the wall with pins. Evoking Murakarni Takashi's mutant mushrooms and monstrously cute flowers, the predatory petals in Wilson's work nearly overtake the viewer, unfurling their charms in a menacing, magnetic embrace.
Tucker Schwarz uses a sewing machine to create stitched snapshots of the Northern California landscaape in her series, No regrets Rendered in green and brown threads on canvas and denim, the works track the artist's fleeting glances at the passing landscape of hills and highways. Schwarz's earth-toned palette suggests to her the drab interiors of 1970s homes, evoking that innocent domestication of nature once seen in green shag carpets and mustard-colored linoleum. Speeding across the terrain of her routine commute, the artist is simultaneously moving forward and looking back, finding her past outlined in her rearview mirror.

Upstairs, Stanley Chan and Christopher Duncan have collaborated to create Spring to Autumn Period, an installation that constructs meaning from the ephemera of our daily lives. Creating an archaeology of memory, some of the pieces in Chan's series were inspired by the story of an old Chinese man who lived alone in a shack in rural California. To keep warm, the man insulated his walls with layers of colorful refuse. Re-creating tiny pieces of this dwelling in works like Wall (bathroom), Chan collages newspapers, magazine pages and product packaging onto architectural details to form the strata of a personal history. Similarly, Chan's mixed media on paper works are palimpsests of scrawling writing and found objects, suggesting internal dialogues that have congealed into artifacts. Leaves litter the gallery's floor, but the regenerative powers of spring are present in Duncan's work, which borrows from a variety of spiritual iconographies to raise questions about both this life and the next. Pink lotus flowers mingle with the gesturing hands of saints, but these icons are often framed by remnants of the everyday and keepsakes of the past. What unites Chan and Duncan is their concern with the passage of time. They have created a space where memory becomes tangible.