Martha Glowacki’s latest show combines animal and industrial bones – Tone Madison
The two pieces of the mirror box, “Mouse King” and “Silver Forest,” each consist of a circular chamber of polished wood, approximately 20 inches wide, resting on round bases of black and red turned brass and black. severe black fabric, with all of this mounted on cast iron drawing table bases. Glowacki reports that the bases weigh a ton. The viewer watches in each of them a scene reflected endlessly in a complex of eight mirrors, multiple perspectives overlapping at the same time. In “Silver Forest,” Glowacki uses molded elm twigs to suggest chopped wood. Watch closely and these supernatural silver twigs sprout new life, in the form of tender sumac branches and molded bumblebees, evoking a cycle of destruction and regeneration.
“Mouse King” riffs on the macabre spectacle of the rat king, a group of rats with intertwined tails. “Mice, they should be able to have a king too,” said Glowacki. So, she used the skeletons of five dead mice found on her property, posing them with their tails each wrapped around a central pole. Glowacki, always fascinated by a range of esoteric materials and processes, launches, “If you need a woman to reconstruct your mouse skeleton, I am your woman.” Depending on which mirrors you look at from what angle, the postures of these skeletal mice can appear threatening or hopelessly vulnerable.
“They’re playful,” Glowacki says of these two pieces. “Sometimes they can be a little scary, I guess. For someone whose work uses so many literal dead animals, Glowacki turns out to be remarkably cheerful. The unmistakable morbid sequence of these pieces never goes for insignificant shock value – it’s a nuance in a more complex exploration of the natural world and how humans unbox it.
“One thing that interests me is the optics,” says Glowacki of the impetus behind the two pieces of the mirror box. “When the rules of perspective for painters and architects were developed in the Renaissance, you had this way of creating an illusion of three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional plane. we do special tricks and jokes inside and things like that with the optics? ‘ And at the same time, mirrors were developing, but they were very rare and they were very valuable. So there were things that were being made, and I’ve seen drawings of them in 16th century books or 17th century books that show different kinds of illusions with mirrors. Some of these are called anamorphic illusions, where you have something like a cylinder or a cone that has a mirror surface on it, and you would have a distorted drawing of a painting that is laid out around the outside of that, and when you get to a particular place and look at it, everything is resolved and you see it in its proper proportions. So it could be used for a political statement or a scatological joke, or a nice picture. “
Glowacki has long tapped into his interest in the history of science to create rooms that contain a lot of space, often in the form of shadow boxes and large multi-compartment cabinets filled with both real and imagined specimens. Perhaps most famous / notoriously, his play My Arcadia, on permanent display at the Chazen Museum of Art, presents a drawer containing a dried out cat coated with graphite. Glowacki explained that the cat is real and that workers renovating a friend’s property found it already dead. Some of the animals arrive to him already stuffed, including the aforementioned chickens, and some are killed on the road near Glowacki’s home in northwest Dane County.
Two of these rural road victims form the centerpiece of the most daring installation on the current show, “Als’s Orchestration.” Two squirrels, sprinkled with gold, climb up a vertical tree branch. One perches at the top and extends a paw upward, toward one of the many circular, crown-shaped objects hanging from the beams of the ceiling. It’s as if the squirrel is reaching a strange portal to another dimension, perhaps trying to climb up to the rodent version of the Heaviside layer. In another of the hanging gold crown portals, Glowacki has installed a wasps nest, also covered with a gold coating.