Stepping into the basement of the Finch Lane Gallery this past week was a surreal experience. First, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the gallery is currently open only by appointment, so the whole space was profoundly silent. Second, Kasey Lindley’s exhibit has transformed the industrial environment of the cinder block, gray walls into an organic space. Mother: Landscape tests our traditional understanding of canvas, Lindley’s works defying conventional gallery staging and composition, inviting the visitor into a carefully created environment of soft colors on unstretched and draped canvas.
Lindley’s work explores the human relationship to nature and space. In her bio, she mentions that she is an ecofeminist, part of a theoretical study of the relationship between women and nature. Her piece “Womb” pays homage to this relationship. Women and the earth are both known as life-givers, one of the reasons the popular moniker “Mother” is used to describe the planet. “Womb” is cut canvas in — at first glance — an amorphous shape. With a second look, however, the shape resembles a fetus curled up in its mother’s womb, preparing a new life. “Big Bang,” hanging just above “Womb,” also speaks to beginnings — to the birth of the universe. The painting is a seafoam blue, the color of the primordial sea. Both pieces work together to tell the story of the beginnings of our universe and the continuation of life and creation through the female body.
Lindley’s work feels inspired partly by Abstract Expressionism, especially the work of Helen Frankenthaler, whose work is emulated in the soft pastel color palette and bleeding colors of Lindley’s “Wetlands.” Frankenthaler’s lyric gestures lend her paintings a connection to the natural world where nothing is perfectly symmetrical but everything is beautiful. Like the abstract expressionist, Lindley creates work that feels spontaneous and free. The canvas of “Wetlands” is cut into an ameba-like shape with curved edges and a floppy top. The fold feels like a natural continuation of the ameba line, recalling cell fission, where one organism separates into two. The bottom and top part of “Wetlands” feel the same, as if one fold would diverge from the other, continuing to grow into different works.
Part of this exhibition’s charm is the refreshing change from stretched, rectangular canvases. There is something particularly freeing about seeing a soft, unstretched canvas hanging on a wall. Most textile arts were traditionally women’s crafts, meaning that they would not show up in gallery spaces. Lindley’s folded canvas feels organic but also distinctly feminine. Artists like Anna Mendieta have long explored women’s specific connection to natural spaces. The earth, flora, and textile work are all seen as feminine. Taking a canvas away from a strict, stretched form reclaims the space for womanhood and nature.
Alternately, cutting a canvas representing nature could also mimic colonizers destroying natural spaces. Ecofeminism equates the misuse of land and natural resources with rape and violence perpetrated against our Mother Earth. Lindley’s “Fiery Furnace” seems to take this view, referencing the hell we have placed our Earth and each other in because of climate change. The blotchy pink and white resemble flames coming from a distance, while the large black spots are the already burnt land. The stripes of blue look like rain or streams fighting against the raging flames.
Lindley’s floor work is another intriguing way for the viewer to be engulfed in the space. “Fallen Paintings” invites the viewer to engage in the space in a non-traditional way — for instance, squatting down in order to study the paintings more carefully. Engaging in floor work is similar to how we might bend over to look at wildflowers or birds, as well as referencing the toll colonizers have had on ecosystems as they collapse and fall with irresponsible industrialization.
Lindley’s work is worth the extra effort of planning ahead to schedule an appointment. From her gorgeous color palette to the playful staging her work gives the viewer an opportunity to feel like an explorer, even in a small space. Lindley’s work honors and investigates the human relationship to nature, particularly the relationship between the land and women. As environmental concerns become more serious, we need more work that ponders this relationship and highlights solutions and abilities to make meaningful changes as a global society.
Kasey Lindley, Mother: Landscape, Finch Lane Gallery, Salt Lake City, through Nov. 13.
all photos courtesy Finch Lane Gallery
Hannah Sandorf Davis graduated with a degree in art history with a minor in visual arts from Brigham Young University.