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Stunning in both their beauty and violence, the enormous photographs, drawings and installation piece by Tara Sellios will stop you in your tracks. The work on view at Gallery Kayafas in Boston’s South End through June 27, 2015 is a one-woman tour de force. In darkly intricate and meticulously staged still-life images, “Luxuria” examines excess, one of the seven deadly sins in the Bible.
The religious overtones of Sellios’ photographs are both blatant and twisted. Bountiful tables reminiscent of glorious Dutch paintings, with their black backdrops and intensely colorful and tactile flora and fauna, are disrupted in a display of freshly killed animals dripping blood in distorted positions, stuffed with the symbols of purity (lilies) and plenty (grapes). It’s as if the Last Supper has gone seriously awry. Sellios’ luscious portrayals of abundance and carnality simultaneously entice and repel the viewer. In her hands, the dance between life and death is provocatively disturbing.
In addition to her seven photographs, one room is devoted to four of Sellios’ equally large-scale watercolor, gauche and ink drawings and another room to her installation piece of a banquet table piled high with shattered wine glasses, from which a constellation of white moths arises and takes flight (see feature image). These pieces are comprised of warm, earthy tones against which the creatures contrast, like life against death or hope against despair. All speak of the impossibly delicate and constant balance faced by every living thing.
An essential tension is present in all of Sellios’ work. Animals are stripped down to the flesh, naked against the world. They are often paired and set against one another in her compositions, butting heads or tethered together by twine. Are we seeing a symbolic version of ourselves pitted against each other in the struggle for survival, at once fierce and fragile? The drawing of twelve fish has each fish being eaten while ingesting another; the photograph of a balletic, suspended duck dangling ingloriously by one foot, has its bill plunged into a glass of …what? Is it wine or is it the animal’s own blood? Sellios exploits this confusion with aplomb: we are regularly confounded by wine versus blood or grapevine versus twine.
The sin of “Luxuria” or “excess”, the certainty of its punishment and the inevitability of death, are richly depicted by Sellios in her high impact, larger-than-life pieces. With shocking wrath amid metaphorically life-affirming objects such as grapes, lilies, or moths, we become exquisitely mindful of the universal conflicts of life. Sellios’ work is powerful enough to leave you reeling – perhaps even committed anew to a little prayer about forgiving trespasses.
For more information about his exhibit, go to: http://www.gallerykayafas.com/
Feature Image: Installation view of “Luxuria Red Room, May 21, 2015” installation piece by Tara Sellios (courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas).