Southern Louisiana's salt marsh veined landscape, complex history, and distinctive culture is familiar to the Lowcountry. You'll recognize these influences, along with broader social narratives, in the works of Luminous Lookout, a Southern Louisiana-based artist collective who will be exhibiting at Redux through March 21. The collective is comprised of Dawn Black, Kathryn Hunter, Kelli Scott Kelley, and Jonathan Mayers, and together, they aim to inspire conversation about the ever-changing world we live in and the consequences of these changes.
Each of the Luminous Lookout artists works with representational imagery that functions symbolically or metaphorically within a larger narrative. Their work contemplates power structures and struggles whether within the natural world we live in, between humans, or within the psyche. This is where the exhibition's title — Spectral Marauding — comes in. The selected works for this show consider opposing forces — seen and unseen — that can generate change, "robbing" something of its former state. Though their individual works differ, all members of Luminous Lookout hope that their work provokes a dialogue by which we can better understand ourselves and our place in an ever-shifting world.
As a collective, they're still young. Spectral Marauding will be only their second exhibition together. "With this show, we wanted to play around more with the design of the show together. In terms of what we do as a group, it's still evolving," explains Kelley.
Kelley paints metaphorical images on antique linens. Working with repurposed materials allows her to be environmentally responsible, and the linens also provide a connection to the feminine. "These linens were part of the domestic world. They've been used, so they have this imbedded history. And many of them were hand-stitched by women, so it's also been a way for me to connect with women's work," she explains.
Her surreal images juxtapose odd yet meaningful elements. They almost always depict the human form, often interacting with animals and sometimes even hybridized with them. "I'm aware of and considering humans in the natural world and everything from thinking of ourselves as animals and creatures in our animal nature as well as how humans affect the natural environment," she says.
Similarly, Mayers explores environmental destruction through fantastical landscapes infused with mythological beasts and creatures. The creatures are metaphors for destructive human interactions with the natural world, historical events, natural disasters, or invasive species. One piece that will be shown at Redux, "La Louve blanche protégeant Rayne" (The White Wolf Protecting Rayne), depicts a spectral white wolf sprouting tentacled pincers preparing to defend the coastal landscape from an inky, serpentine monster.
The wolf was inspired by an indigenous woman of the Houma tribe who sought to protect the landscape from the construction of an oil pipeline. The piece sits within a purple frame caked with actual marsh mud from the area and crawfish claws.
"A lot of inspiration comes from people and personalities that I've met, but it also comes largely from hearing stories," says Mayers. "I'm a Louisiana Creole, and we have a lot of folk tales down here like the rougarou — a werewolf beast that lurks in the swamp. They address all sorts of destructive things that humans do. It's essentially why these stories were made."
"I feel like that term marauding, that idea of plundering fits with all of our work — that idea of taking something either from the earth or from people and cultures," says Black. Her work shifts away from the natural world and focuses on "pop culture, sociology, and social life; how that creates a hierarchy of power and control; how that extends into our consciousness and unconsciousness; and how that manifests in our behavior." Her work is meant to pose a question rather than make a statement and invites the viewer to consider the unseen forces that shape our identities.
Hunter's work also deals with social power structures and human interactions, and, like some of her partners within the collective, she uses animals as characters to explore these concepts. "Animals are a symbolic way of talking about the human condition in a way that we've done for centuries," she says. "It's a way to convey a message that isn't as direct as a photograph."
She explores violence and pacification, especially in terms of gun violence and racism. "I'm trying to understand how people treat each other and how we're treated by institutions," she says. The materials she chooses elevate these concepts. Working with prints, textiles, and laser-cut steel and paper silhouettes, she juxtaposes elements of varying weights. "Paper cutting, especially if it's not framed, can be seen as so fragile, but the cut metal is something stronger in idea and material," she says.
Spectral Marauding — as Redux's annual artist collective exhibition — is intended to give the public a chance to engage with a group of artists who share similar themes and intentions. Though each member's work is powerful on its own, their collective heft grants greater depth and dimension to each.