by Keith Banner

Diane Landry’s “by every wind that blows” at the Contemporary Arts Center downtown (up through March 2, 2014) is revelatory and mundane at the same time, a beautiful mix of thought and action that shimmers in your mind a long time after witnessing it. Landry uses banal objects like empty water-bottles, plastic knives and forks, and laundry hampers to create phantasmagorical bits of theater, and while you stand looking at them you get little jolts of joy as well as admiration for her craftiness. Her sculptures are fun with an overlay of pretension (with titles like “Mandala Naya,” referencing both a ritual Buddhist and Hindu symbol, and the name-brand of the water bottles used to depict it). The pretentiousness is just as necessary and lovely as the whimsy.

Simplicity yields splendor in the centerpiece of the show, “Exhaustion,” a mirage/colossus made of plastic cutlery assisted by naked machinery to undulate and brood. You think of jellyfish and plumes of pollution, landfills turning into ballets. Something mysterious happens as this thing Landry made does its duty; you start to understand how simple art is supposed to be, unadorned and yet completely thought out, a showiness flattened into dream. It also has a tribal funkiness to it, doing its slow-motion dance without dancers. For a while it feels like it’s the center of the world.

Diane Landry – Exhaustion

The above-mentioned “Mandala Naya,” along with its twin, “Mandala Perrier,” come off like Yves Tanguy three-dimensional set-pieces, surreal to the point they become beautifully commonplace. You could live with these twins as they scatter their luminous thoughtlessness across your walls. In deciding to use recyclables to construct spiritual zones of beauty, Landry is giving us sentimentality merged with a little off-the-shoulder environmental advocacy, and yet too there’s a blunt, sweet mischief at work here. Imagine an oil-spill metamorphosed into a genie pushing itself out of its bottle, a tongue-in-cheek rebirth that blisses you out.

Diane Landry – Mandala Perrier

“The Magic Shield,” with its futon foundation and dangling lost keys, is a spooky, child’s-mind view of electric cords, bed-sheets, two by fours, and puppet strings that seems a little too literal to be in the same show, and yet also has a poetic inertia and urgency all its own. Landry is building an insular visual language here, a mix of Robert Rauschenberg doom and Jean Tinguely ridiculousness. You feel you’re in the presence of someone trying to figure a way out of a maze made of lost luggage.

Staring at “The Magic Shield,” I thought of Theodore Roethke’s The Lost Son, this line from that epic poem:

Voice, come out of the silence.
Say something.

Appear in the form of a spider
Or a moth beating the curtain.

Landry, like Roethke, finds symbolism and catharsis in everyday objects and moments, moving from the concrete to the abstract simply by arranging/repurposing the objects and thoughts in a ruthlessly artistic way that’s showy, subtle, and eventually lyrical. She finds a trance where most other people find nothingness. In that alchemical process of delicately coaxing meaninglessness into phantom she also discovers a voice melting its way out of silence.

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