We all love our material possessions. More so than we would likely admit. Our stuff comforts us, strengthens us, makes us feel safe.
Even those who preach an ascetic lifestyle still give a backhanded acknowledgement to the power of material culture — otherwise, why would stuff be something so important to give up?
In ‘Unsustainable Attainment,' a fetching solo exhibit at Women & Their Work, Austin-based artist Virginia Yount shares her visual imaginings of a near-future dystopia where inhabitants cling furiously and fearfully to their stuff.
In painted scenes nicely executed in gouache on paper, we can see that something bad has happened in this world — some toxic environmental catastrophe or political/economic collapse. There's no shining sun nor bucolic foliage. Nature seems dead or frozen.
There are no humans visible in this desolate world either. But there are signs of their existence. What are those signs? Lots of stuff.
Amid the bleak leafless trees and under the gray skies are colorful accumulations of material goods. Some of this stuff seems furtively assembled into odd shelters. In ‘Eclectic Beach House (For Car Salesman)' tires and winding strips of metal along with unidentifiable colorful bits of scrap are gathered to mark off a primitive lean-to. In ‘Nest (for Technophiles),' shimmering CDs (rendered by bits of pearlescent paper affixed to the painting) decorate a treehouse perched in a lifeless tree.
Likewise in ‘Dust Bins of Literature,' books form an igloo of sorts. And Yount doesn't skimp the details. Look closely and you can see the book covers: there's ‘Crime and Punishment,' ‘The Bell Jar,' and a classic black-and-white composition book.
The allure of the translucent, light-grabbing gouache along with Yount's innocent style belies the more terrifying aspects of this future world. A crisis has occurred. And as a result everyone has scurried into hiding, surrounding themselves — burying themselves? — in the detritus of consumer culture.
But it's not just consumerism that get a jab by Yount. Even virtual human socializing has been stripped of its power. A monumental tower seemingly made from cast-off electronics gets the iconic treatment in ‘Fortress of Solitude (for Twitter).' Yet, clearly, the tower is defunct of whatever power charged it in the first place.
Perhaps offering a more complex — and even darker — take on a collapse of social media, ‘Emotional Outpouring (for Facebook),' shows a desolate copse of trees, each tree trunk scarred up by graffiti and with surveillance cameras topping the upper branches. Sure, we all know nothing on the Internet is ever private, but having the remnants of so much playful chatter withering on a dead trunk, as it were, and under the watchful eye of Big Brother, well, that's grim.
Yount's one sculptural piece, featuring miniature architectural structures crafted from used lottery tickets, doesn't quite have the anxious punch of her sweetly rendered yet dismissive visions of a lonely landscapes inhabited by hiding hoarders.
Love materiality too much, Yount's paintings suggest, and it'll destroy all the truly pretty things.
‘Virginia Yount: Unsustainable Attainment'
When:10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 12 noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 12
Where:Women & Their Work, 1710 Lavaca St.
Info:477-1064, www.womenandtheir work.org