Luxuria« back to Portfolio
by Celina Colby
Tara Sellios’s exhibition Luxuria at Gallery Kayafas is not for the faint of heart. The collection of watercolors, photographs, and installation cannot be simply viewed, it must be digested, experienced. At Art New England we’ve been following Tara since she debuted on the cover of our November/December 2011 issue. She was also named one of our seven photographers to watch. Four years later and we’re still watching.
Since graduating from the Art Institute of Boston in 2010, Sellios has been lauded for her complex and stirring juxtapositions of life and death. Working in large-format photography as well as watercolor, she stages elaborate still lives on the themes of excess and self indulgence, a play on the seven deadly sins. In her artist’s statement she says of her work, “Through these images, I aspire to make apparent the restlessness of a life that is knowingly so temporary and vulnerable.”
Open until June 26, the exhibit is organized in three sections, a room of watercolors, a room of photographs and an installation piece.
The watercolors, four in total, veer towards the fantastical. They are Sellios’s first watercolors for sale. Luxuria Untitled No. 3 depicts two goats facing each other, horns pressed to horns, spilling wine from their mouths into the glasses below. Blood trickles from their eyes and they engage fiercely with each other as though locked in a still, eternal battle. Similarly, Luxuria Untitled No. 4 depicts two animals, both a mysterious cross between a chicken, a frog and a snake. Both headless, blood spills from their open tops as they wrestle with each other, continuing their battle beyond the grave. At the end of their tails comes a pair of snakeheads that froth over at the mouth in a torrent of grapes. While the upper head appears to be eating, the lower head appears to be drowning. Both sides of the animals battle each other, and in the end perhaps it’s our own carnality, our animal instinct, that destroys us.
Luxuria’s installation piece offers a three-dimensional edge to the experience. Sellios’s first ever installation, its walls engulf you in a deep red, evoking a ceremonious, almost church-like feeling. A wooden table covered in a white cloth takes center stage, reminiscent of the last supper. The tablecloth has been stained a deep purple and the offending glasses, broken and chipped are piled in the center. Amazingly, the glasses aren’t glued together but are held up by gravity alone, fragile debris on the edge of falling. Life flocks to death in this work, as a cloud of butterflies sprouts from the pristinely preserved wreckage.
On the opposite side of the gallery the watercolor paintings come to life in the vivid photographs Sellios is famous for. These pieces reference Dutch still lives, known for depicting sumptuous spreads of ripe food and drink. Yet while the Dutch were representing prosperity, Sellios shows us the other side of the coin. Fleshy, slaughtered animals hang limp in glimmering pools of blood. Meals are garnished by bird heads and broken glass. In Luxuria Untitled No. 7 a skinned goat’s head emerges from a bed of fruit and flowers. The typical signs of life and growth, white lilies to symbolize purity and grapes to symbolize opulence, are spattered with blood and stained with dirt. Yet they remain beautiful. Like many of us, they are beaten but not broken. The sheep’s eye stares lazily out at us and its snout is stuffed into a shattered, upside-down wine glass. The result is grotesquely beautiful.
It’s easy to draw a connection between Sellios’s striking works and contemporary food culture. “Foodies” everywhere look not only for taste and sustenance in their meals, but for artistry. Presentation is equally as important as substance. These behaviors feel particularly garish when Sellios decorates her meals with the trappings of death, when the bird is marinated in blood and accented with strangled chick heads. Sellios not only points out the link between life and death, but the bestial other side to the world of fine food and wine. Luxuria is not just about beauty, it’s about reality. It’s an exhibit not for those who wish to be acquiesced, but for those who wish to be illuminated.
May 22–June 26
37 Thayer Street
Boston, MA 02118
Image Credit: Images courtesy of Gallery Kayafas.
Celina Colby is the editorial assistant at Art New England magazine and the blogger behind Trends and Tolstoy.
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