Trish Tillman: In Irons

Trish Tillman's precariously hung doorway sculpture, Pajama Party with Murder Holes, suggests that gallery-goers enter with trepidation. This mock castle gate, bearing sharp wooden fence posts (or stakes) and a guillotine-esque awning, recalls medieval methods of defense and execution. It should be taken as a warning: what's above could fall at any time. While the piece threatens to do harm it also invites people in: the pineapple speared to the top indicates, according to old lore, that guests are welcome. You will cross this threshold at your own risk, unsure if you are friend or foe.

Tillman's recent sculptures reveal the underlying irony of things that are meant to be welcoming and hospitable. Her assemblages have a way of pulling you in and at the same time pushing you away. Dawn of the Dead, a hand-quilted garden complete with corn and strawberries, symbolizes the comforts of home (food and warmth) and yet its eerie shutter gates and surrounding fence (not to mention its title too) are barriers that keep people at bay. Dollar-store hand soaps, faux toiletries, cutesy knickknacks, and a picture of the departed in the crowded bathroom cabinet Gas Pumps Removed, Garden Inserted show how decorative and sanitary effects meant to put one at ease can also be cause for cringe.

Human fear of pain and the unknown will often manifest in the welcoming devices that we create and also, maybe more so, in the space of our imaginations and spiritual beliefs. Tillman's interest in fantasy, fairy tales, and mysticism (castle gates, horror films, and ghosts) is most apparent in her paper decoupage, where colorful cutouts resembling crowns, jewels, old ironwork, and wispy clouds or flames are placed upon dark sinister backgrounds. These works together with Tillman's sculptures suggest that one person's castle is another's prison.

-- Nicole Caruth, independent curator and writer

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September 10 - October 16, 2010

Opening Reception: Friday, September 10, 7-9pm

Exhibiting for the first time with Civilian, Brooklyn-based Trish Tillman will install site-specific sculpture and new cutpaper works, including architectural elements that both threaten and welcome guests. According to the artist, "when a boat is in irons it is pointing directly into the wind, or is too close to the wind to make headway. Therefore, it struggles or is completely stopped dead in the water. Elements of my work possess this ambition of wanting to move forward but with constant barriers or reminders of loss."