5/8/10 11:29 AM
Tattoos make of the skin a storytelling medium, but rare is the body that devotes its entire corpus, head to toe, to tell tales of this and that, here and there. The American writer Ray Bradbury wrote a book based on this premise in 1951, but apart from that, the device is woefully underused. Not so in the work of Mary Ann Anderson. The artist creates strange figures with long noses and weak chins, animal parts and small pointy feet, but notable mostly for the wild patterns and textures that cover them from top to bottom. Achieved via graphite rubbing, these paper people have bodies that speak of veins and fence posts, wrinkles and vines, city grids and fossilized insects. Small figures prance and stand on long scrolls, acknowledging their Chinese ancestry. Would that Anderson took more advantage of the scroll form to arrange some suggestion of narrative and space among her creatures. Other large-scale cutout figures are suspended from the ceiling, two-sided and twisting in the breeze, their flatness uncanny, their hanging a bit too close to death for comfort. But death is a lurking presence here that must be acknowledged. The figures are ghosts, not unlike the sickly ghosts that haunt certain Chinese scrolls. Bereft of eyes and ears and mouths, they are marked by patterns that tell their stories for them, a form of communication not very human indeed.