Sonya Clark

Sonya Clark

November 2, 2018 –  January 5, 2019

Opening Reception with the Artist
Friday, November 2, 2018
7:00 – 9:00pm

Now is an urgent moment for conversations about American identity and the ongoing role of racism in our culture. This fall, Lisa Sette Gallery will exhibit works that present a new scholarship of American identity, a matrix formed by our disparate human narratives and our shared human experience. Textile and social practice artist Sonya Clark tests the interactions between elementary human materials—textiles and text, storytelling and visual symbols such as flags and currency, beads and human hair—as a method of revealing our national history and collective character.

Any examination of American identity must address the legacy of slavery and the ensuing, ongoing mistreatment of African and African-American bodies. Clark’s Slave Collar series is an unflinching look at slavery and its historical origins: words that encapsulate the practice of dehumanization and slavery are inscribed in a series of punctures through handmade cotton rag paper.

Clark explains that these haunting works, “are based on the parallel legacies of Empire building through slave labor in the Roman Empire and in the USA. Many of the enslavement practices of ancient Rome were employed in the Americas, including things like slave collars.”

With a methodical approach and clarity of purpose, Clark’s works manifest the exchange of stories and skills that are fundamental to human connection across time. The deconstructed flags of Clark’s renowned Unraveling project resulted from hours of work alongside volunteers from the public, who shared their reflections and their labor to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War by unweaving the threads of a tightly woven Confederate battle flag.

A continuation of this project, Interwoven presents the deconstructed fibers of the current US flag interwoven with the deconstructed flag of the Confederacy. The result is eerily not one thing nor the other; a shadow image reminding us of the difficulty of separating out the strands. “It’s not really about an oppositional relationship,” remarks Clark, “But instead to try and discern the complexity of the symbol, the complexity of the history, and work—or unwork—it together.”

Community and craft as an iterative function of the American experience is integral to Clark’s experience as a first-generation immigrant. Her story encompasses a vast breadth of identities that exemplify a resident of the American continents—raised in Washington DC by a Jamaican mother and father from Trinidad and Barbados, Clark’s distant ancestors had in turn, survived the carriage from West Africa on a slaver’s ship. A Scottish great-grandfather connected the family to Europe, and these days Clark travels widely among these diasporic branches of her family: to Europe and the Caribbean, Africa and the US. It is a family story with a unique vantage on the notion of American identity: forged through slavery, immigration, love, and an intergenerational linking of cultures.

In our family stories, Clark says, “the most personal becomes universal,” and at the present moment of our American story, this rendering from the personal to the universal feels particularly urgent. For Clark’s part, addressing the violence and iniquities borne by African-Americans in our society is only the first sentence in the story.

“Anger is justified, and then what? Because anger is simply an emotion. I’m much more interested in what happens next. How do we move forward? And how far have we moved forward?”

This exhibition is part of For Freedoms’ 50 State Initiative, a non-partisan, nationwide campaign to use art as a means of inspiring civic participation in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.

Since 2016, For Freedoms has produced special exhibitions, town hall meetings, billboards, and lawn sign installations to spur greater participation in civic life. Building off of the existing artistic infrastructure in the United States, For Freedoms has developed a network of over 300 artists and 200 institutional partners who will produce nationwide public art installations, exhibitions and local community dialogues in order to inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. Centered around the vital work of artists, For Freedoms hopes that these exhibitions and related projects will model how arts institutions can become civic forums for action and discussion of values, place, and patriotism.


Trina McKillen: Confess

September 15 –  October 25, 2018

Opening Reception with the Artist
Saturday, September 15, 2018
7:00 – 9:00pm

When Trina McKillen embarked on the creation of her resplendent, intricately detailed life-size glass confessional, Bless Me Child For I Have Sinned, she encountered responses ranging from denial to recognition, and throughout, a stark awareness of the unchecked power of the Catholic Church.

Deep institutional resistance was the context against which McKillen, who counts herself as “a shy person, not necessarily wanting to stand out,” formulated the immersive installation work that comprises her stunning exhibit, Confess, at Lisa Sette Gallery this September. Starting out with a vivid idea but minimal experience in the building trades, McKillen spent several years constructing her exquisitely confrontational transparent confessional booth, a transportable structure fabricated entirely of glass, metal, marble, and wood. Accompanying it is a ghostly cohort of embroidered antique vestments titled The Children once worn by children in the Catholic Church, and a series of illuminated linen “poultices” titled Stations of Hope.

In The Children, McKillen uses vintage First Holy Communion dresses and altar boy vestments to represent the seemingly invisible nature of the crimes of the Church.
Every garment and embroidered symbol signifies that each child suffered their own unique pattern of abuse in silence and secret. McKillen said she felt “compelled to create something that would make the children visible”.

Early in the confessional’s production, a glass technician and a draftsperson both left abruptly upon comprehending the content of the piece. One of them, recalls McKillen, “Saw the chair in the booth, saw what I was doing with this piece, said ‘Oh my god, I grew up with this shit,’ and ran down the stairs from my studio and never came back again.”

McKillen realized that it was necessary to conceal the intent of her project. When subcontractors came to her studio she removed the confessional’s delicate, child-sized upholstered chair, and, on the other side of the booth’s intersecting panel of glass, the corresponding priest-sized confessional kneeler, with its steely cushion of nails. “Most of the people who worked on the components for this, they do not know to this day what they helped me build.”

McKillen possesses a unique awareness of the denial and secrecy built into society’s proscriptive power structures: growing up in a traditional Irish Catholic family in the sectarian Belfast of the 60’s and 70’s, her father, a respected businessman, clandestinely engaged in peace negotiations with the British. In response, McKillen’s childhood home was ransacked; bombs exploded outside her front door. When her family moved to Dublin to avoid further retaliation, McKillen sensed an unwillingness to confront the realities of Northern Ireland’s troubles and the not always beneficent role of the Catholic Church.

Early in her life, McKillen, one of nine siblings, felt that the Church’s purported reverence for children was in fact a proxy for a simple war of numbers with Protestants. “This idea of children being important… I knew, as a child, that it was this idea of outnumbering the other side, in order to bully them the way they bullied you. From the beginning I always had a deep feeling that actually, the children themselves did not matter.”

As she entered young adulthood, McKillen found herself visiting a friend in the psychiatric ward of a Dublin Hospital; the once-spirited and talkative girl was curled into a fetal position, nearly comatose at the foot of her bed. It was only then that McKillen was informed that her friend had been habitually raped in childhood by an uncle, a respected Catholic priest.

McKillen hastened from Ireland to an expansive life as a set designer in Los Angeles, but an unease with the Catholic Church that shaped her childhood simmered in her subconscious, hinted at in lush photographs and assemblages of the small, symbolic items that McKillen reflexively collected: babydolls, textiles, and religious paraphernalia, objects imbued with both ritual beauty and shame. Intrinsic to these lush and often lovely works is a sense of aesthetic evidence-gathering, a secret recordkeeping. McKillen’s works exhibit a keen recognition of objects that reveal a hidden story.

As the child-abuse within the Catholic Church was uncovered in revelations of increasing horror and magnitude, and as the Church continued to evade culpability and transparency, McKillen’s subject matter came into stark focus. “I had the idea in my head, of what would God do if he came down and saw this… And then the glass confessional just came to me. I thought, ‘I’m going to make the Church kneel in front of the child.’”
McKillen’s immersive exhibit at Lisa Sette Gallery — a meticulously constructed installation that ranges across the gallery, required that the artist reconcile not only with problems of construction and engineering, but of her own internalized fear of standing out. Now, however, she says,

“I’m mainly just very excited about this confessional, this gigantic piece of work, finally making its maiden voyage.”

Featured Work




May 5 –  August 25, 2018

Housed in a partly subterranean modernist Al Beadle-designed building, Lisa Sette Gallery’s physical space is a study in angles and lines; the real estate website Curbed has referred to Beadle structures as “beautiful boxes.” A serene exemplar of a “white cube” gallery space, Lisa Sette’s expansive gallery is a cool white square angled around a central, altar-like alcove made up of right angles, into which brilliant desert sunlight pours from above.

In this setting, however, form is not an extension of content; denizens of Lisa Sette Gallery know that its curatorial adventures are anything but square. This summer the gallery celebrates the paradox with Circle / Squared, a group show featuring works that revel in concentricity, bending the straight line toward experimentation and aesthetic gyration. Included in the show are the delicate ceramics of surreal objects by Li Mingzhu; eerie photographic portraits by Bettina von Zwehl and Tami Bahat; fantastic and phantasmagoric photo constructions by Luis González Palma, Kahn/Selesnick, Liu Xiaofang; stunning industrial landscapes by Yao Lu; and portraiture mementos in the form of glass cameos by Charlotte Potter, among others.

One of Circle / Squared’s more conceptually startling works come in the form of Yao Lu’s landscape photographs, which in color, theme and composition somewhat resemble the Japanese 18th Century Ukiyo-e (or “Floating World”) genre of paintings and prints. Lu’s landscapes, however, are photographs documenting vast topographies of industrial detritus. The photographs’ circular form is a subversion, as the viewer arrives expecting a quaint historical work: Lu’s images instead show in shocking beauty the toxic material of human industry–mountains of rubble and boundless fields of soot, billowing and undulating before our eyes.

The works of von Zwehl, Bahat, and González Palma hearken to nostalgia in a more ornate and atmospheric mode, presenting timeless figures or images in round or oval compositions. González Palma’s theatrical portraiture shows a deep play between presence and absence while expressing complex emotions and melding them with public and private symbolism. Von Zwehl’s mysterious, close-up portraits of people and animals are circumscribed by a heavy black frame, while Bahat’s disturbing tableaus present figures in gothic or medieval garments as though they were still-lifes, caught posing for eternity within their gold-leaf frames.

Also referencing aspects of nostalgia is Charlotte Potter, who makes explicit the inextricable connections between glass and photography, as well as the applications of these media toward an essential form of memory: the portrait. These small, glowing identities are the obvious descendant of an ancient form of personal memento carved in glass or shell—the cameo.

A circular view may suggest eyeglasses, telescopes and microscopes, binoculars, or peepholes: intimate methods of viewing scenes that may otherwise be beyond our sight. Kahn/Selsnick’s staged photographs portray a post apocalyptic world in which humans–unchecked by societal expectations–pursue their own odd social and creative impulses. The viewer becomes time-traveller/voyeur as Kahn/Selesnick’s Truppe Fledermaus, a group of travelling performers, engage in mystical antics among the overgrown landscape, and the circular images come to resemble unsettling specimens in a textbook on human behavior.

The camera’s-eye view is used to much different effect in the photographs of Liu Xiaofang. Composed nearly completely of blue sky, Xiaofang’s works present distant figures, often children, in stark settings and simple poses. Portraying an essential, ever-receding view of the past, Xiaofang’s work captures nostalgia in heartbreaking clarity.

The works in Circle / Squared often relate back to past portraiture and landscape as well as the circular form found throughout art history.

Featured Work


Binh Danh at The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD

Binh Danh at The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD

The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD
Pier 94, New York City

Show Dates
April 5 – 8, 2018
April 4: Vernissage

Purchase Tickets HERE

Binh Danh

The Ghosts of Khmer: Light and Memory

In the comfortable histories of our youth, genocide seemed an answered question; the retrograde horrors of a generation removed, a closed book. A decade before the present moment of uncertainty in our global existence, the photographer Binh Danh refused this pat conclusion. Danh’s early work compiled the Khmer Rouge regime’s eerie death portraits—taken in the moments before victims were executed—and transformed them into a living archive of proliferation: Danh devised a method for creating chlorophyll prints on tree leaves, and inscribed hundreds of portraits of lives lost in the Cambodian genocide upon the tree’s organic surfaces.

During his travels to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former prison and execution site where the Khmer Rouge portraits were taken, Danh found himself drawn to views of the bleak rooms, cases filled with victim’s belongings, beds with shackles, and menacing outdoor spaces. Later, when conceiving of his recent works, Danh remarks, “I was not sure why the images of these places stood out to me. But in thinking about them I began to remember the images we saw from the prison at Abu Ghraib [in Iraq], and it occurred to me that I have actually been thinking about the images of Abu Ghraib since they appeared in the media several years ago. Maybe we have all been thinking about these images.”

In The Ghosts of Khmer: Light and Memory, we are invited to explore the issue of human individuality and responsibility, and the ways those concepts shift over time, in both the ethereal reflective surfaces of Danh’s large-scale daguerreotypes and the images’ paradoxical subject matter. Portraits of genocide victims etched on the daguerreotypes’ silver surfaces recall the bas-relief idols on the walls of Angkor Wat’s temples, which are also the subject of several of Danh’s images.

“With Angkor Wat,” says Danh, “here is this beautiful architectural achievement of art and religion and Buddhist culture. And it was through the beauty of the Angkor Wat temple that the Khmer Rouge emerged, as the regime sought above all to return Cambodia to its glory days. In order to do that, they had to remove anyone who did not go along with their ideology. This is a theme I return to: the darkness and beauty in our history.”

Revisiting the chlorophyll portraits in his current body of work, Danh documents the leaf images with daguerreotype photograms. “Once I make a chlorophyll print, the leaf is fragile and degraded. The daguerreotypes hold that ghostly quality of the chlorophyll print.” The reflective surfaces of Danh’s daguerreotypes act as a mirror, and the portraits are created at human proportions: “You will see the leaf and the portrait,” says Danh, “and you will see your own face overlaying the face of the victim.”

In these photograms Danh invests a personal discourse about the moral implications of photography. He found himself returning to the philosopher Roland Barthes’ description of the role of death in photographic works. Says Danh, “In an image of someone who has passed, they don’t know they’re dead, because they’re alive in the photograph. But we know they’re dead, because we have lived beyond their time.” In this way, continues Danh, “photographs change society and the way we think about time.”

Danh also considered a far earlier transformation in human perception in the process of making these highly reflective works: the introduction of the mirror. Prior to the moment in the thirteenth century when reflective silverized surfaces were popularized as mirrors, humans defined themselves as members of a group. “At the beginning of human evolution, we didn’t see ourselves in a way that required self-reflection. When mirrors became common, humans became individuals and stopped thinking in terms of the group.”

That essential conflict of human life—how we exist simultaneously as individuals, and as very small parts of a much larger pattern—is illustrated in both Danh’s transformative portraits of the dead, and his scenes of vast and ancient Buddhist statuary in symbiosis with the forest around it. Influenced by the early photograms of Henry Fox Talbot and cyanotype prints of nineteenth-century botanist Anna Atkins, Danh’s daguerreotype plates are glimmering tributes to the photographic moment, seeming to capture in monumental scale a world left behind, and a glimpse at the extremes of our tenuous existence.

An homage to both contemporary photographic theory and the black and white binary that defined early photography, the intensely argent surfaces of Danh’s works present a secondary imagery resembling a double exposure, a vibration of shadow and light around the composition’s edges. Whether in the stark chambers of injustice or the luminous expressions of monumental gods, Danh’s images record a secret energy at play in all human endeavors. As we contemplate the mysterious machinations of human destruction, we cannot lose sight of the generative mystery of the Buddha’s form, rising up from the forest floor.

Featured Work


Máximo González / Ato Ribeiro

Máximo González / Ato Ribeiro

March  3, 2017 – April 28, 2018

Opening Reception with the Artists
Saturday, March 3, 2018
7:00 – 9:00pm

Minimalist compositions of pattern and form suggest a complex historical and cultural background in the works of Máximo González and Ato Ribeiro. Ribeiro’s hand-worked wooden quilts speak to the merging of cultures that is a primary facet of contemporary life, as well as the changing conceptions of communication and material that will shape our planet’s future. González’s works in devalued currency propose a canny political critique in the form of the subverted materials from corrupt power structures.

Máximo González is recognized internationally for installations composed entirely of detritus and cast-asides, and he is known in particular for his work with devalued currency. Suggesting roiling collections of empty photo frames, sisyphean mazes, and stacks of grids and files, González’s works draw attention to both the emptiness within these structures and the aimless bureaucratic paperwork that predicates them. The ability of the artist to repurpose paper evidence of corruption and mismanagement into an interrelated series of delicate and enchanting objects offers hope: despite the ravages of greed, humans continue to return to basic values of material ingenuity and aesthetic structure.

Formed from the devalued and obsolete Mexican paper bills, González’s works are created using traditional textile and paper crafts including punch-cutting, weaving, and a method similar to the Japanese cut-and-fold technique of kirigami. Through these currency labyrinths, González delineates “the whimsical line of the division of territories, drawn conveniently for the one who traced it… a line that seeks to separate the inside and the outside, desire and wish, entering or leaving; a political labyrinth that is redrawn through centuries, always obeying the same line: the one that is traced by money.”

The wooden quilts of Ato Ribeiro–composed entirely of found and discarded woods–embody a vocabulary of histories and materials compiled across continents and cultures. Woven of repeating shapes and grain patterns determined by both the amount of scrap wood available, and specific methods used in quiltmaking and kente-cloth strip weaving, the resulting works reveal the elegant, essential beauty of Ribeiro’s meticulously collected and catalogued scraps. Ribeiro’s works, like the early African-American quilts that influence them, are both specifically defined and dynamic, containing forms that shift and expand as our eyes adjust to repeating variations in line and shape.

This pattern of constant motion is reflected in Ribeiro’s own life, divided equally between his father’s native country of Ghana, where he spent his early childhood, and the United States, where his mother was born. While studying art at Morehouse College in Georgia, Ribeiro felt compelled to join the geographical and cultural divide: “I needed to connect the two conversations, to bridge the African side and the African-American side.”

Ribeiro fashions this connection in marqueted geometrical forms that draw inspiration from both African kente patterns and the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. With their intentional use of materials and expansive vocabulary of symbols and patterns, Ribeiro recognized in “the complex modes of communication embedded within these textiles” a parallel to his own experience. In the works’ graphic elements lives a coded language, contemporary evidence of a shared heritage that is independent of words and has existed for centuries.

An opening reception with the Artists will be held on Saturday, March 3, 2018 from 7:00 – 9:00pm

Selected Work


More from Máximo González

More from Ato Ribeiro

Angela Ellsworth / Luis Gonzalez Palma / Siri Devi Khandavilli / Reynier Leyva Novo

January – February 2018

Angela Ellsworth: Holding Pattern
Luis Gonzalez Palma: El Sol
Siri Devi Khandavilli: Selfie Queens
Reynier Leyva Novo: La extension de las palabras (The Extension of Words)

January 13 – February 23, 2018

Opening Reception with Angela Ellsworth and Siri Devi Khandavilli
Saturday, January 13, 2018
7:00 – 9:00pm

Devising unexpected connections between spiritual practice and contemporary sense of self, the works of Angela Ellsworth, Luis Gonzalez Palma, and Siri Devi Khandavilli grant their viewers access to patterns of perception and the generative power of the physical gesture. Ellsworth’s mysterious, entrancing objects and performances draw lines of communication between her Mormon ancestry and the work of mid 20th-Century spiritualists; Luis Gonzalez Palma’s photo collages capture astrophysical material as evidence of a universal presence; and Khandavilli’s cast figures reenvision the Hindu pantheon as a series of modern idols, preening in designer heels.

Addressing the secret languages pulsing beneath officially-sanctioned accounts of history and religion, Phoenix-based artist Angela Ellsworth interprets the spiritualism of mid-Century healers and artists Emma Kunz and Hilma af Klint as a pivotal moment in the hidden history of female spirituality–one that Ellsworth herself accesses through the practices of her maternal Mormon ancestry. A performance artist whose processes often produce mysterious and exquisite objects, the physical self is one of Ellsworth’s primary aesthetic concerns. Her recent series, Holding Pattern, includes a series of “Pantaloncini,” patterned undergarments comprised of pearl-tipped hat pins, their iridescent exterior surfaces contrasting chillingly with the forest of needlepoints within.

The complex and profoundly compelling patterns created with contrasting pin-tips are derived from the “sacred geometry” of Emma Kunz. Generated in the service of healing and spiritual divining, Kunz’s abstract, mathematically intense drawings prefigured the work of the male Abstract Expressionists who later were recognized for innovating such forms. Says Ellsworth:

“Emma Kunz and Hilma af Klint were two artists living in the first half of the 1900’s,  largely unknown and producing radical work for their time. The invisibility of these artists (as well as plenty other female artists through art history) speaks to / parallels the invisibility of plural wives in early Mormonism and their connection to mysticism.”

Ellsworth’s works merge these two systems of secret languages in intriguing performances and installations, delving into an unspoken realm of gestural language, psychic connection, and sensuous geometry.

Guatemalan artist Luis Gonzalez Palma has always used photography as a medium through which essential materials may travel; a transmission of soul rather than specific imagery.  For Gonzalez Palma these works are part of “the search for a reality related to the void and the sacred space…uncertain and loaded with a mysterious geography.” In his series Koan, Gonzalez Palma works from the first astrophysical images recorded in Argentina: interplanetary bodies, spectral lines, and microscopic stellar particles derived from the archives of the Astronomical Observatory of Córdoba, Argentina.

Gonzalez Palma has extrapolated from his originating images a personal geometry, “a space that is inhabited by conscience.” With these photographic images on onion paper, folded and shaped into a query about the nature of existence, Gonzalez Palma continues to innovate photography as a spiritual medium. His works in Koan: El Sol, through archival material and astrophysical formulae, present a photographic iteration of “the pure and abstract sensation that comes from the Universe.

In Selfie Queens, Bangalore-based sculptor Siri Devi Khandavilli employs traditional Indian modeling and metal-casting methods to create a series of contemporary idols worshipping at the altars of self, social media, and consumerism. Voguing coquettishly for their camera-phones, Khandavilli’s ornate goddess figures look just like traditional Hindu temple idols. On closer inspection, one finds these burnished deities fully outfitted with trappings of the pop culture consumer: designer heels, tight jeans, and an intense, intimate connection between face and phone. These queens are glamorous, irreverent, and unblinking, attached to a history of stories and spirituality and a present moment of self-regard and consumption-as-beauty.

Khandavilli is fascinated rather than judgemental; in fact, she sees in the rise of the selfie a poignant search for meaning.

Selfie photos, remarks Khandavilli, are “in a way, strangely beautiful – people seen as they see themselves or as they want to be seen. This self-consciousness, this vulnerability, talks about the human need for love and approval…a desire to live a life worthy of documentation.”

The charming, unsettling vision of stylized religious iconography taking form in a modern-day social-media setting reveals an essential aspect of Khandavilli’s conceptual concern: the myriad expressions of human desire. In one way or another, we are all functionaries of this worldly system of yearning and reward, posing and clicking as though our existences depended on it. Says Khandavilli, “Selfies are a kind of mirror-gazing without a mirror. Maybe we all are trying to recognize ourselves.

In spare and incisive conceptual works, Reynier Leyva Novo bears witness to the varied iterations of the Cuban revolutionary social project. Scouring administrative and bureaucratic data/ephemera from his country’s history, Novo reformulates mundane details of grammar and form into idiosyncratic minimalist works.

La extension de las palabras (The Extension of Words), a recent series, consists of collaged words from Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban government. Diminutive and unassuming newspaper clippings of a single, loaded word anchors each composition. The words are surrounded or in some cases eclipsed by a geometric umbra of gold graphite lines. Novo’s approach is unsentimental and precise, and results in works that both challenge epochal historico-political platitudes and invite discovery of alternate means of interpretation.

In my opinion, it is interesting how, ultimately, everything that happened is contemplable through these little concentrations of words, and measurable by given amounts of ink. –Reynier Leyva Novo

The opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 13, 2018 from 7:00 – 9:00pm

Featured Work


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Xawery Wolski / Alan Bur Johnson

Xawery Wolski / Alan Bur Johnson

November 3, 2017 – January 6, 2018

Opening Reception with the Artists
Friday, November 3, 2017
7:00 – 9:00pm

The works of Mexico-based artist Xawery Wolski and Arizona-based installation artist Alan Bur Johnson draw poetry from the atmosphere in works that are meditative and exacting. Using familiar forms and materials that interact with the ambient qualities of their surroundings, Wolski and Johnson delineate ethereal figures in space and time that bear the weight of human memory. New works by both artists are featured in Lisa Sette Gallery’s fall exhibit.

Xawery Wolski’s solemn, startling works begin with elemental forms and materials: bones and terra cotta beads are woven into a fabric from which archetypal garments, or vestidos, are composed. Wolski, a resident of Mexico City who was born and raised in Poland, has always been entranced by the idea of clothing and adornment: “that second skin that one chooses for oneself in order to cover, to protect, to defend, to adorn.” In a remarkable recent piece, Wolski has strung thousands of handmade, bone-shaped terracotta beads to form an immense, pale cape, a winged form that can be perceived as both a ritual garment and a living entity, presiding in the ambient air currents. Wolski’s vestidos are exhibited seemingly suspended in midair; substantial and elongated, a history of human intention is tangible in each beaded vestido’s cascading multitudes. “Meditation…is the key to this work: deliberate, patient repetitive movements that start with “nothing” and pursue toward infinity.”

In a related body of work, Wolski arranges glistening, highly-glazed clay components resembling liquid droplets in precise, jewel-like formations against the wall. Wolski travels widely in the Americas and obtains a clay sample from wherever he goes: “the clay comes from the earth, and the earth is the material of origin: the essence of the place where we come from and where we end.”  Reflective and highly responsive to light, these works glimmer and morph in response to the changing light and human presence in the gallery, speaking an ancient and atmospheric language that extends beyond our brief moments of perception.

This artwork… attempts to link the esthetic appeal of the object with the context of its material origin: it speaks of the presence of a human figure as well as of its absence.   -Xawery Wolski

Alan Bur Johnson seems to exist in symbiosis with the high-desert environment surrounding his Arizona studio, an intimate acolyte of the structures of flight and the cellular architecture of our shared biology. Johnson’s past installation works have directed scientific and exacting processes of observation and documentation toward the murmur and flutter of insect swarms and the formations of basic cellular bodies. In his new series, Push the Sky (one rendering shown above), which debuts at Lisa Sette Gallery this fall, Johnson adds human engineering structures to his vast vocabulary of biological flight:

“This body of work is inspired by a collaboration I wanted to pursue with my father, but was unable to realize during his lifetime. He was fascinated with flight and wings — a shared interest that I only fully realized in recent years. An architect and artist, he became an exceptionally skilled builder of model airplanes… Working in my studio, I suspend the skeletal frameworks he built and draw the long shadows that are cast upon the wall, then redraw and reduce the forms. I also project the insect wings I have photographed.”

Johnson records the projected silhouettes of both human aircraft and insect anatomies, then assembles the resulting pieces into large, powder-coated steel structures as delicate as lacewing, and that, when installed, project their own shadow chronology in the changing light.

From a fragmentary epiphany distilled in the desert air, Johnson’s works speak to the variance and convergence of biological systems and human endeavor. Systems of memory and flight combine to give shape to a shared consciousness, a knowledge of our place in the world that is embodied by the structures we ourselves are in the constant process of creating and disassembling. Johnson’s particular scientific and poetic ingenuity is in expressing the volume of absence in these forms, and the mysterious, ever-present existence of emptiness and release within our busy moving parts. Push the Sky captures the shadow-impression of the fluttering and darting wing, at the moment it comes to rest.

This work is as much about the negative space as it is about the physical forms. Forms, voids, and shadows carry an equal volume. They address both what is present and what is absent, and speak directly to the presence of my father.   -Alan Bur Johnson

An opening reception with the Artists will be held on Friday, November 3, 2017 from 7:00 – 9:00pm

Selected Work


More from Xawery Wolski

More from Alan Bur Johnson

Kahn + Selesnick / Rachel Bess

Kahn + Selesnick / Rachel Bess

September 5 – October 28, 2017

Opening reception with the artists
Saturday, September 9, 2017, from 7:00 – 9:00pm

Lisa Sette Gallery’s fall exhibit marks the year’s diurnal progression toward a darker season with Rachel Bess’ oil portraits and the photo-collage constructions of collaborators Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick. Bess and Kahn/Selesnick revel in historical and retrofuturist aesthetics of the occult, marking resonances with our present moment of ecological and moral insecurity. In disparate media, these works demonstrate the irresistible intrigue of the fantastic and unknown in times of cultural upheaval.

Kahn/Selesnick’s meticulous photo-collages function as immersive cosmic systems from which the viewer may divine their own meaning or narrative based on a constellation of esoteric details. Each image catches an enticing fancy, mid-flight.  Their series, Madame Lulu’s Book of Fate, follows the continuing adventures of the Truppe Fledermaus, a motley, bat-masked crew that has featured in the duo’s recent works. Kahn/Selesnick explain Truppe Fledermaus as “A cabaret troupe of anxious mummers and would-be mystics who catalogue their absurdist attempts to augur a future that seems increasingly in peril due to environmental pressures and global turmoil.”

Writing in the New York Times, Vicki Goldberg described the adventures of Truppe Fledermaus as “apocalypse soon, delight in the meantime.”

For while a shining margin of rising floodwaters encircle many scenes of the Truppe, still its members seem to take pleasure where they can, traipsing in fancy-dress across wasted, watery, or overgrown landscapes, encountering last-of-their species creatures and attempting feats of technological transcendence with charming analogue contraptions.

Performing the roles of commedia del’arte and adhering to the democratizing customs of carnival, the costuming and elaborate backgrounds of Truppe Fledermaus explicitly recall 18th-century France; remarks Richard Selesnick:

“We see a correlation between that time period and our own, with the world teetering between enlightenment and violence. We often find it helpful to view our own anxieties through the lens of history in this way.”

Fortunetelling may also offer comfort in times of civilizational confusion, thus Madame Lulu’s Book of Fate comprises a deck of tarot cards and a bocca della veritá—a mouth of truth hearkening to the original Roman artifact. Madame Lulu’s visions are caught within a circular frame, as though through the lense of a sightglass, all the better to catch a glimpse of a possible future, or a substitute past, that somehow makes sense of the absurdity of the present moment.

A notion of existence outside the limits of time is also central to the eerie portraits of Rachel Bess. Bess remarks:

“I nearly always try to have my figures in a time that is not specific…and extends the possibility that [each portrait] may be set in the future, or I suppose an alternate ‘futurepast’.”

In Bess’ moody and precise oil-on-panel portraits this embodied “futurepast” seems to have sprung from our contemporary world, still grasping enchanted artifacts and treasures from beyond history. Amulets and magical talismans, poison bottles and turn-of-the-century cabaret costumes adorn the central figures of the portraits, each depicted in a moment of atmospheric hesitation, ensconced in the infinite cosmic darkness of myth or dreams.

The portraits’ subjects are young and attractive, with unconventional faces and bodies; their dreamy expressions and enigmatic background adds to their fascination. The luminous delineation of these figures in the shadows becomes an enchantment that commands further consideration. As viewers of both Bess’ and Kahn/Selesnick’s works, we are compelled to follow into the unknown realms they direct us toward. These are places of darkness but also beauty and seductive whimsy. And such strange loveliness begs the question: what do we have to lose?

The opening reception with the artists will be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017 from 7:00 – 9:00pm

Selected Work


More from Kahn/Selesnick
More from Rachel Bess

David Kroll / Jessica Joslin

David Kroll / Jessica Joslin

May 2 – August 26, 2017

Opening reception
Saturday, May 6, 2017, from 7:00 – 9:00pm

The works of David Kroll and Jessica Joslin are decidedly different; Kroll’s delicate oil paintings appear at first reminiscent of the still-lifes of the Dutch Golden Age, while Joslin’s oeuvre comprises a menagerie of bone-and-bauble creatures, unheard-of biological specimens pieced together with a metalsmith’s precision. Yet the artists share a detailed knowledge of mysterious, timeless inner worlds, and both dive deep in order to bring forth scenes and creatures from their enchanted subconscious.

David Kroll’s still lifes are continually unfolding mysteries, portrayed with a sure and immaculate compositional hand. Kroll’s deft touch as a realist belies his works’ constant internal magic: in each still life there is an otherworldly intervention or compositional sleight of hand; a landscape echoing from background to vase, a fluttering of ethereal wings in the darkness that indicates the ceaseless motion of the living world.

“I paint personal refuges and interior landscapes… I try to create a connection – however fleeting – between the viewer and the power of landscape, the web of life, the idea of nature itself.”
– David Kroll

The natural world in Kroll’s works is frequently mediated through man-made objects or references–vessels, globes, and memento mori, portrayed with the same lush elegance as the natural environment surrounding them. Yet Kroll’s paintings recall the experience of meditating for a moment on a purely natural setting and witnessing as a broad landscape sharpens into a series of dramas and details, as the profound multitude and variety of the natural world reveals itself to us, and life goes about its ceaseless project.

In the formative years of her childhood, the sculptor Jessica Joslin could only see the details of the natural world in one of the many science museums in her hometown of Boston. Joslin explains that she was too nearsighted to glimpse natural life in any detail in the wider world, but within the vitrine of museum glass she could study the miraculous detailed anatomy of taxidermy specimens.

“At the natural history museums at Harvard, with their Victorian-era passion for collecting and labeling, I discovered the animal kingdom…magnificent, inscrutable, magical and…dead. The taxidermy animals that I saw were far more fascinating than any animals that I could see in ‘real life.’ ”
– Jessica Joslin

Joslin’s extreme nearsightedness was eventually discovered and corrected, but her fascination with the enigmatic mechanics of natural biology continues, in a zoological garden filled with odd and magical creatures of her own creation. Holding endearing and lifelike poses, Joslin’s strange pets and specimens are made of skeleton parts and antiquated fixtures, sweet baubles and disconcerting anatomies, recalling a reliquary of turn-of-the century circus attractions.

Remarkably, Joslin uses no soldering or welding in the creation of these works; mechanical fixtures of various kids are their uniting and animating force. Brass, steel, bone, glass and leather combine to give character and an entreating kind of charm to each piece, a coy invitation to look very, very closely. Though domesticated, each creature retains the wild and slightly fearsome aspect of one who cannot be categorized in any earthly taxonomy.

The opening reception will be held on Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 7:00 – 9:00pm

Selected Work


More from David Kroll
More from Jessica Joslin

Charlotte Potter at The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD

Charlotte Potter at The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD

Charlotte Potter at The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD

The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD
Pier 94, New York City

Show Dates
March 30 – April 2, 2017
March 29: Vernissage

Purchase Tickets HERE

Charlotte Potter


The portrait as we know it is an image projected through glass. Human visages pass through a glass lens in the photographic act, then go forth again through glass, often as a miniature profile picture illuminated on the screen of a digital device. These small, glowing identities are the obvious descendant of an ancient form of personal memento carved in glass or shell—the cameo. In Capturing Light: A History of Photographers and Cameographic, Charlotte Potter makes explicit the inextricable connections between glass and photography, as well as the applications of these media toward an essential form of memory: the portrait.

Potter, a glass artist whose work frequently explores the performative and conceptual implications of her material, has addressed the connections between glass, photography, and image presentation. Her previous installation works featured exploding patterns of cameo lockets that documented the social media profile as an expression of personal identity. Moving toward an investigation of photographic image-making itself, Capturing Light: A History of Photographers presents one hundred and one influential photographers in a chronological timeline of multicolored cameo portraits. The resulting installation is an enchanting study of the history of photography, as artists who shaped the medium across two centuries assemble in a gathering of gemlike images, specific delicate parts that make up a variegated, voluminous whole.

Quintessential first image makers Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre initiate the horizontal diagram; from there, Capturing Light pulses toward the present moment in photography with color-coded portraits that reference each photographer’s subject matter. The colors represent informatic sets and subsets: red=person; magenta=person/abstract; blue=abstract/thing; cyan=abstract/place; green=place; yellow=people/place; black=innovators and inventors. Capturing Light presents a lyrical and aesthetically complex map of the photographers whose work has shaped our contemporary understanding of the visual world.

In the process of drafting Capturing Light’s composition, Potter came to a particular appreciation of the interactions between historical circumstances and creative development, from the chemical experiments of the 1830’s to the present moment of digital supremacy and selfies.

“I wanted to figure out a taxonomy to visually quantify these photographers,” remarks Potter, “And what I discovered was that there are these wonderful subsections: Man Ray is somewhere in between Person and Thing. Weston lives there too. In between People and Place we have Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott, Gordon Parks.”  –Charlotte Potter

Cameographic, an installation work accompanying Capturing Light, is informed by basic photographic action involving chamber, glass, and light, and the range of early developing processes. Potter has stated: “My work begins with a historical model. I am constantly looking for historical references, relevance, and reasoning for using this material.” A grouping of larger oval portraits of influential photographers, Cameographic is presented in black and white and framed in silver and tin, referencing early photographic methodologies. While Capturing Light follows a complex schema, the simpler layout of Cameographic is a more elemental homage, an engagement with the essential processes and materials by which nearly two hundred years of photographers have experimented with images of reality, following the work of engraver and inventor of the photograph, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.

Sourced from the Internet, applied to glass treated with digitally-developed decals, then hand-carved using traditional engraving tools, the cameos in Capturing Light and Cameographic are engaging, paradoxical objects whose existence owes to both ancient and contemporary technologies and desires. Potter’s works put human faces to the iconic moments of photography’s history—the historical camera is reversed. And the artist’s detailed attention to the processes, materials, and history of photography exposes an interdependent system: glass and light and the human face are revealed as integral intermediary forms, the pervasive materials through which we remember one another.

List of Photographers in Capturing Light: A History of Photographers:

CYAN = abstract/place

Burtynsky, Edward
Calle, Sophie
Crewdson, Gregory
Friedlander, Lee
Gursky, Andreas
Kertesz, Andre
Klett, Mark
Morell, Abelardo
Sugimoto, Hiroshi

MAGENTA = person/abstract

Gibson, Ralph
LaChapelle, David
Lartigue, Jacques Henri
Lee, Nikki S
Leibovitz, Annie
Lux, Loretta
Michals, Duane
Modotti, Tina
Muniz Vik
Neshat, Shirin
Outerbridge, Paul
Palma, Luis Gonzalez
Sherman, Cindy
Simpson, Lorna
Siskind, Aaron
Stern, Grete
Taylor Wood, Sam
Thomas, Hank Willis
Wall, Jeff
Wegman, William
Witkin, Joel Peter
Woodman, Francesca

YELLOW = people/place

Brady, Mathew
Bravo, Lola Alvarez
Callahan, Harry
Capa, Robert
Cartier-Bresson, Henri
Clark, Larry
DeCarava, Roy
Evans, Walker
Frank, Robert
Gardner, Alexander
Lange, Dorothea
Lyon, Danny
Maier, Vivian
Moriyama, Daido
Parks, Gordon
Weegee, Arthur Fellig
Winogrand, Garry

BLACK = innovator/inventor

Daguerre, Louis Jacques
Edgerton, Harold
Herschel, John
Lumière, Auguste & Louis
Marey, Etienne-Jules
Muybridge, Eadweard
Niepce, Joseph Nicephore
Peach Robinson, Henry
Talbot, Wiliam Henry Fox

RED = person

Arbus, Diane
Avedon, Richard
Bellocq E.J.
Bey, Dawoud
Cameron, Julia Margaret
Curtis, Edward S.
Dater, Judy
Dijkstra, Rineke
Eisenstaedt, Alfred
Goldin, Nan
Horn, Roni
Mann, Sally
Mapplethorpe, Robert
Model, Lisette
Penn, Irving
Ruff, Thomas
Sander, August
Steichen, Edward
Stieglitz, Alfred
Van Der Zee, James
Weems, Carrie Mae

GREEN = place

Abbott, Berenice
Adams, Ansel
Atget, Eugene
Connor, Linda
Emerson, Peter Henry
Frith, Francis
O’Sullivan, Timothy
Shore, Stephen
Watkins, Carleton

BLUE = abstract/thing

Atkins, Anna
Baldessari, John
Bentley, Wilson A.
Blossfeldt, Karl
Bolin, Liu
Cunningham, Imogen
Levine, Sherrie
Man Ray
Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo
Prince, Richard
Rossiter, Alison
Uelsmann, Jerry
Weston, Edwardx

Featured Work