Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cindy Loehr "Bluebird Burden" @ Monique Meloche

Cindy Loehr "Bluebird Burden" | Monique Meloche
Originally Posted on Panel-House: March 2004

Cindy Loehr’s new installation at Monique Meloche gallery is as complex as it is spiritual. A white curtain, which spans the vast height of the gallery, blocks the view of the installation upon entry into the space. As one descends the stairs a certain sense of curiosity envelops the visitor and there, behind the pristine wall of white are three enormous bluebirds made from chicken wire and garland, each resting on pedestals that tower over the viewer. Lit from below, the birds’ heads are raised, evoking an eerie yet fascinating presence; they almost deified.

Upon approaching the pillars music begins, sung by Carlos Lama with whom Loehr collaborated on the lyrics. The singing of the bluebird is replaced by verses which speak of one’s constant search for love and perfection which brings only sorrow and pain. Only loss comes from this quest and love is equated with loneliness, happiness with pain. However, Loehr does not abandon hope since the last line of the song states: “we will not forsake you.” The question of why Loehr chose a bluebird is confounding. Countless songs have been written about bluebirds, from campfire sing-a-longs to one by former Beatle Paul McCartney, yet the bluebird demands a closer interpretation. In folklore, the bluebird is symbol of love and hope. The idea of a bird evokes thoughts of the ability to fly, and therefore freedom from earthly bounds; however, the color blue is often used to describe feelings of sadness and melancholy. Therefore, the decision to use bluebirds refers to the situation most people find themselves, somewhere between elation and sorrow, usually one more than the other and occasionally feeling both all at once. Loehr doesn’t attempt to manipulate the viewer’s feelings to move in one direction or another, but simply to remind him or her of his own existential nature.

In other works, such as Waiting Room/Session Room and Snowman Stories, both 2002, Loehr explores common motifs (naps and snowmen) that evoke a sense of comfort yet still reveal feelings of loss and sorrow. However unlike postmodern works Loehr’s installations do not exhibit a sense of irony. Whereas Jeff Koons for example attempted to turn porcelain bunnies and puppies into cynical and mocking symbols of society, Loehr depicts banal motifs with cheap materials but doesn’t cheapen the emotions she explores. Instead, she proves that emotions are universal and therefore valid. By pairing sentiment with ordinary themes, such as bluebirds and snowmen, the weight and meaning of feelings become significant. Loehr is returning to the idea that there is truth in art and she challenges postmodern ideas without forsaking installation art or resorting to traditional media.

Written by Mary Gustaitis-Beyer

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