Finch Lane is lined with narratives like “Reaching for Liberty,” testaments to the dynamic history and tradition of the Iranian woman that celebrate her while invoking a sense of sympathy with her challenged role in society today. The title of the canvas “Allah Akbar” signifies “God is Great” and is a narrative of Amiri’s own invention. It is similar to “Reaching for Liberty,“ abstracted and geometric with a flattened and frontal visual plane. The iconography is distinctive: a peasant woman with a white shawl wrapped around her head reaches upwards, her mouth agape, her eye one large tear. Above, on a tier of clouds, rests an angel with wings spread. Unlike in the Western tradition, where heavenly beings bear a portentous presence and bestow divine favors, this angel is immune to the call of the woman, bored even; his eyes are closed and he does not hear her call of “God is Great.”
Showing concurrently with Amiri’s works are a series of mixed-media assemblages by artist Loné Vilnius. They can be meaningfully contemplative or simply witty. All, however, are masterfully rendered mixed-media sculpture.Vilnius’ “Peace?” is a contemplative assemblage that fits well with Amiri’s religiously charged paintings. It visually begs the question, “with a diversity and plurality of contrasting religions, is religious peace possible?” The names of a number of faiths and practices are placed on a placard and embedded within a carousel, which can be turned from the sides, aimlessly and without end. Above, the word “Peace,” spelled out in black with a red question mark toppled to its side, seemingly answers the question for us.
Vilnius’ religious critique is continued in “Really?” a tall box, atop which sits a carved wooden angel, the type that served in the 19th century as weather vanes. Inside the box a reproduction of Jan Van Eyck’s altarpiece “The Last Judgment,” serves as a backdrop. At the bottom sits a small lamb (a Christian symbol for Christ) and outside the box a spring mechanism suggests the gong is about to sound to herald the “end of days.” At the bottom of the box white letters, minus a question mark, spell out the work’s title, “Really?”
Polemical works like this are in the minority, however. Most of the assemblages in the show — such as “Think,” which features a baby doll’s head inside a wooden box with a piece of measuring tape — are simply witty and beautifully crafted and can be encountered and enjoyed for the sake of their broad aesthetic appeal and intrigue.
Ehren Clark studied art history at both the University of Utah and the University of Reading in the UK. He is now a professional writer living in Salt Lake City.