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September 9 - October 21, 2006 at BLK/MRKT Gallery, Culver City

by Any Brumer

Tiffany Bozic may be a young artist--she was born in Arkansas in 1979--but her paintings speak wisely of age-old thoughts and themes.  With appealing technical virtuosity, she fashions heavily pigmented paint on solid maple wood panels into images of nature engaged in a surrealistic dance of survival that reflects the English poet Tennyson’s insight into nature’s “red in tooth and claw” modus operandi.  Poetic but not precious, challengingly complex and magically real, the paintings acknowledge life’s gentleness and aggressiveness (sometimes in separate paintings and sometimes together), as if Audubon met Jurassic Park in a madcap episode of Lost or Survival.

Bozic, who now lives and works in Oakland, sandpapers the surface of her work, which warms the paint with a patina glow and allows some of the wood’s grain to show through.  The artist, who created the work in this exhibition during and after her recent extended stay in the wilds of Papua, New Guinea, where she accompanied an evolutionary biologist on an ornithological expedition, says in a statement, “I have always been drawn towards finding some kind of common thread or language that binds us to and separates us from nature and each other.”

In one painting this “thread” becomes the stringy tendon of the eviscerated heart of a black-faced monkey grasped in the oblivious beak of a huge, eagle-like bird that stands over his kill.  As the predator straddles its prey, which lies in a shallow lake framed by barren desert-like hills, the animals’ talons and legs morph into twig-like branches that lock together in a latticed embrace.  This painting works as a metaphor both for American imperialism and the devouring pain of romantic love (as Janis Joplin sang,“Take another little piece of my heart”).  It speaks volumes about Bozic’s capacity to address both social/political and personal/emotional subject matter.

Another painting places a nest full of bird’s eggs under a rather idyllic and maternal looking fox who sits on, and apparently tries to incubate them.  Above hovers a double-headed egret, whose spread open, canopy-like wing shelters this unlikely stacking like a living halo.  Salvador Dali once said that anyone who didn’t understand a horse galloping on a tomato couldn’t grasp the essence of Surrealism.  Nor would they likely understand Bozic’s celebration of nature’s protean power and myriad manifestations (the Chinese have no single word for nature, but refer to it as “The Ten Thousand Things”).

Barrens of Suburbia," 2006,
acrylic on maple panel, 59 x 40

title to come, 2006,
acrylic on maple panel

In the Beginning," 2006,
acrylic on maple panel, 42 x 42

Mice" (detail of installation), 2006,
acrylic on goose eggs, dimensions vary.

The show’s centerpiece takes the form of a gothically-tinged mobile of black painted goose eggs hanging in clusters from the gallery’s ceiling.  Each egg contains the painted image of a white mouse curled into a fetal position.  The entire structure floats above a black reflecting pool of water on the gallery’s floor.  The graceful curve of the rodents’ bodies fits with such symmetrical elegance into their oval containers.  This formal quality not only mitigates the piece’s queasiness, but offers a kind of cat-and-mouse comment on the question of “Intelligent Design.”  While creationists may use what they perceive as nature’s impeccable logic to argue for the existence of an omnipotent creator, this work suggests in its own persuasive way that the answers to the big questions of heaven and earth do not come in nice, neat packages.