Bettina Hubby
(Ice House)
What there isn't is faces. What there is is clothes. And lots of times there are clothes (or fabrics) in places where you might expect to find faces. So you can anthropomophize like crazy, but you aren't limited by what the people actually look like. You can't, in other words, really do the automatic sort of split-second subconscious personality evaluations of the figures, which is the favorite avocation of most of us (or am I just extrapolating from my own experience?).

In 1923, Virginia Woolf famously wrote that the accumulation of exterior detail in fiction said nothing about life, which is a "luminous halo," the interior life. The breakdown between exterior description and interior reality happened about 1910, she continued dogmatically and matter-of-factly. But that breakdown has, for most of us who don't routinely have hallucinogenic experiences, either naturally through some genetic mutation, or unnaturally with the help of external substances, reestablished itself. Maybe that happened about 1932.

So the picture above communicates a good-natured, rather cheerful muddle. We don't know who usually occupies the clothes, and we don't know if (s)he is in them, though a bag over the head usually communicates concealment, after all. A lot of ambiguity, the gun to the head slightly chilling, but the general demeanor is too loose and, ultimately, too somehow free to cause much anxiety.

Bettina Hubby constructed these pictures by cutting out fragments, largely from fashion magazines, juxtaposing them as she saw fit, and then taking photographs of the results. These were shown at the Klowden Mann Gallery in Culver City, California, and are now published in an attractive volume published by Ice House.

They aren't really uniforms, and they don't really suggest uniformity. Or at least the clothes may seem familiar, but the discordant elements take them someplace else. The images exist in an unlimited space, undefined by any backgrounds. They are caught in the middle of an ecstatic, freeform movement. They exist for themselves, without the people that usually inhabit them. It's like the old cartoons when the toys wake up and play with each other, after the children have gone to bed.

Ms. Hubby is an LA-based artist, working in a variety of visual media. Many of her works are collaborative, while she retains a commitment to working alone in her studio. In the collaborative work, she says she learns from others, while studio work allows her to look more deeply into herself.

She wants very much to laugh. Whimsy is a persistent theme: a candelabra-bedecked dinner with construction workers, for example. But serious thoughts sometimes intrude. In a show that mixes her own story with art, she revealed last year via Facebook that she had contracted breast cancer. Although she initially thought about keeping her disease to herself, she decided it was better to be open. Her life, after all, is about art, which is, in turn, a reflection of her life. So she asked her friends and fans to respond with anything about boobs --- pictures, jokes, poems, songs or? The only request was to make her laugh. Her friends/fans responded en masse. And Ms. Hubby collected them all, producing an uncurated show from 112 artists, including everything that came in, up to a cutoff date. The title of the show? "Thanks for the Mammaries" of course.

There is a small amount of text in Uniforms, contributed by Dave Cull, in what seems like an upbeat riff on Kafka's "Metamorphosis." At the outset, the unnamed narrator experiences a slow withdrawal of consciousness, rising from his feet to his head, a withdrawal that feels like death. Losing consciousness and unable to find his phone, he falls into a pile of laundry. He awakes to a new world.

    It emerged from nothing, but it emerged from me. I witnessed it and also was it. I had no propriorception, per se. No volition either. I was an explosion of chaos and the rapid emergence of new qualities, a seemingly endless array came in and out of focus. Actions and interactions gave way to forms and patterns. Smaller forms --- weaves and folds --- led to large ones --- swaths and linings --- and further on to pants, shirts, belts and shoes. Silk was an upward speed. Cotton reeled. Later, hats clung and congregated.

It is, says the narrator charmingly, "a kinesthetic mess." Feeling absolutely a part of a joyful movement, the narrator is peaceful and blissfully intrigued. But, eventually, his differentiated self begins to separate from the spectacle, eventuating his withdrawal, as life once seemed to withdraw from him. Sadly, he returns to the world of everydayness. Although neurologists examine him, they can't explain his experience, just as he cannot explain why he wants to go back. You, he says to the reader, are just as surprised as they are.

But maybe not. Maybe we the viewers are misjudged and underestimated. Who wouldn't want to be a part of this highly liberated, athletically fluid, kinesthetic melange? Ms. Hubby seems to have had as much fun making the pictures as I had looking at them.
--- Richard Daverman
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