Recuerdos Que Perduran
College of the Mainland Gallery
Wren M. Allen
Elena Poirot-Lopez, Recuerdos Que Perduran (Memories that Persist) (installation view), 2003
Recuerdos Que Perduran (Memories that Persist) is an exhibit of works by Elena Lopez-Poirot at the College of the Mainland Gallery. While several small-scale, mixed-media works are displayed, the highlight of the show is a site-specific installation entitled Una Jornada (A Journey). By using materials which engage the senses of touch, sight, hearing and smell, the artist encourages visitors to take a journey into their own past as they traverse the enclosed space of the installation, which combines quiet, interior domesticity with the energetic intrusion of raw nature. The labyrinthine installation is organized into “rooms” mimicking those of a house. Yet, multitudes of leaves and branches festoon all the surfaces of the installation. One has the impression of entering a house that has been abandoned to natural forces. This effect is enhanced by the use of homey textiles and knobby wood furniture, evoking memories of visits to grandmother’s house.
Upon entering the gallery, the visitor’s attention is drawn by a mixture of natural and man-made ambient noises, including birdsong, ocean waves and the intermittent ringing of a telephone. The noises emerge from the gallery’s corner, where black drapes block off a portion of the space. A plaster hand points to an entry at the side. Entering, the visitor is plunged into the darkness and claustrophobia of a narrow tunnel. Pushing aside dead branches and blinking to adjust to the dim lights, one looks up to see a small chair and a table covered with crocheted lace doilies, and holding a small red beaded lamp and a book.
Shuffling through drifts of leaves, smelling the strong odor of drying, decaying vegetation, the visitor follows the “hallway” to spy a rotary telephone, the source of the ringing. At the end of this hallway comes the trickling sound of water from a running faucet, protruding from a pile of papier-mâché “rocks” covered with vines. An ornate mirror and roll of toilet paper hang on the wall next to the surreal sink/waterfall in this “bathroom.” A small birdhouse hanging nearby contains a miniature bathroom with neatly arranged fixtures.
At this point the tunnel turns sharply, and the visitor enters the “kitchen,” which is filled with the noise of crickets and features a dirt floor. A small kitchen table and chair stand below a window with white curtains fluttering in the breeze of a fan, imitating a window air-conditioning unit. The atmosphere of a 1970s Gulf Coast kitchen is strongly evoked by the colorful tablecloth and the large, bright appliquéd apples and pears on the curtain valance. Cans of homey Ranch Style Beans and Spam in the pantry sprout ivy vines, while African violets grow in the open kitchen drawers. The birdhouse hanging here contains a tiny dining room with gold jacquard curtains and wildly patterned golden brown wallpaper.
Elena Poirot-Lopez, Mama's Dress, 2003
Plaster, nylon filament and fabric "rose petals"
40 x 23 x 6 inches
Turning a final corner, the visitor enters the bedroom. The floor is covered with soft, deep sand. Ocean and seagull sounds fill the air. A small bed tucked against the wall is covered with a crocheted afghan and pillow. A black and a white lacy blouse hang in the niche opposite. The birdhouse in this room contains two twin beds covered with a sixties-style floral pattern. One birdhouse wall has a cross, while the other features a LOVE poster. The dioramas in these birdhouses contrast a neat and orderly world with the chaotic, overgrown rooms inside the labyrinth, perhaps suggesting the difference between memory and history, or rational versus intuitive thought.
While the subject matter and title of Recuerdos Que Perduran refer to the same process of remembrance through sensory stimulation that inspired Proust in his great literary work, Una Jornada affects the visitor on a more visceral level. The labyrinth is most reminiscent of the strange wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe—a portal into a magical world.