5 April 2008 5:25 PM
Shirley Brown’s assemblages reveal the sensitive, trained eye of a seasoned beachcomber and flea-market hound, one who finds this or that small object that everyone else has overlooked. Her artistic task then becomes to pair these odd, long-displaced materials with an often unexpected array of others, not so much to transform them as to re-present them, allowing them to better tell their particular story, one that perhaps only Brown is able to hear. In one work, a series of small, evocatively shaped corals line up against an oceanic ground to speak of lost reefs. In another, rusty machine parts, dainty shells, and a gnarled old twig compose themselves into a specifically female allegory of war and pain. Amid such seriousness, Brown’s "Singer" comes as a welcome bundle of energy: composed of driftwood, feathers, copper wire, wooden drawer pulls, and other odds and ends, she shimmies her way out of the junk heap right into the lightness of being, that special kind of being that’s the magical potential second life of used materials.