Maureen Selwood's Poetry


"By moving eastward in the city of Los Angeles I became aware of the forgotten characters and the deserted landscapes from film noir," explains Maureen Selwood, an artist and CalArts faculty member whose multi-screen projection titled As You Desire Me is on view as part of the C.O.L.A. 2009 Exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery. Selwood goes on to explain that she adopted a kind of "system" for looking at LA by reimagining particular noir characters superimposed over the city's environs. This in turn fed her C.O.L.A. project, which was initiated in Italy a couple of years ago while the artist was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome. Rather than working with noir characters, however, Selwood instead grappled with notions of dislocation, grief and loss, and created what she calls "time-based poems." The resulting project is indeed akin to poetry, in its piercing sadness that is at once palpable and ephemeral. How do these animated poems function?

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Entering the gallery, you find three suspended scrims featuring projections of live action footage with animations layered over them. Each is titled. In I Am Measuring You, a weary dog roams through desolate streets, while in A Shoe Falls, abject grief and mourning cause women to weep where rivers flow through forlorn branches. In Empire of Dreams, on the third screen, Selwood references Charles Simic's poem of the same title, which includes the lines, "It's always evening/In an occupied country..." A fourth animation, very different in tone and style and titled Rules of the Universe, plays on a monitor in a separate room. While Selwood has described the fourth part as a depiction of Rome's resilience, the power of the project resides in the first room, as you stand at the nexus point of three images of loss, and a representation of time as that haunting gap between the cold and barren landscape, and the people who traverse it. We're present in the world only briefly, the piece shows us, searching, like the tired hound at dusk. While Selwood's themes may sound grim, the project achieves the iridescent voltage of great poetry, where words strung together produce a jolt. The show's up for two more weeks: don't miss the experience of As You Desire Me!
C.O.L.A. 2009 Exhibition
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery
Through July 12, 2009
4800 Hollywood Boulevard

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