Submission No. 11

Mary Carlson, St. Margaret of Antioch

Mary Carlson, St. Margaret of Antioch, 2009

Note from Curator Miriam Dym:

YOUR RIFF HERE and then the flag below?

I know I am complicating things, yet Mary Carlson, in a single show at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, seems to have combined broken dishes — fabricated to “be” broken — plus “religious” icon sculptures plus enormous flags made in colors dyed to LOOK faded.

Complicated and messy. Kind of up my street… Yet why did she combine the stuff? It’s one thing to look at a klutzy little sculpture (with religious iconography derived from painting and the apocryphal story of the martyr), quite another to see this little lady climbing out of a monster’s gut side by side with broken dishes and faded flags.

Maybe she’s not really St. Margaret at all?

Note from Riffer Tom Clyde:

I have the feeling that this IS the riff: Miriam’s question.

Maybe she’s not really St. Margaret at all?

Now look down at the image of the faded flag, with the artist standing next to it, below.

Maybe we are not really a nation at all?

Maybe the faded Red White and Blue, the cracked white china plate on a black background, the little white sculpture of the True Believer climbing out of the dragon’s belly, her arms flung to the side as if in a dance step — maybe all of these are merely things that we happen to perceive?

But then, what is underneath our perceptions?

Can we ever reach that far?


I think of a comment a friend of mine made when he was holding his baby daughter once. We were talking about her name (which happens to be: Beatrice).

“Of course,” he said, casually, as if stating the obvious, “She doesn’t really have a name…”

At the time I merely chuckled, and muttered something like, “Well, I guess that’s true… in a way.”

But his comment shocked me to the core.

She doesn’t really have a name. Neither do I. Neither do you. She is actually who she is, and the name is something we just so happen to say in reference to her.

In what sense, then, can we say that there really is a Beatrice, a plate, a nation, a martyr? Martyrdom requires knowledge that is unavailable to us, so it is always, ALWAYS, a gesture of futility.

Mary Carlson, Faded flag 3, 2010

Mary Carlson, Faded flag 3, 2010

About Tom Clyde

The best place to learn about me is to read my riffs. What could be more revealing? Cheeky, maybe, but true enough.

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