Changing lives is like changing your clothes.
Following Vedic principles about the nature of consciousness, reality, and the search for bliss, sculptor and performance artist Phyllis Green has been fabricating “machines for enlightenment” to help with this ultimate pursuit -- and she’s been making garments for the journey too. Based on forms from aspects of her spiritual practice, in addition to a suite of furniture-like sculptures made of steel, wood, fabric, and feathers which each take their inspiration from allegorical passages in the scriptural narrative, Green constructs a suite of simple sheaths. Colorcoded, intended to be layered, Green has spoken of these and related series as being “interpretations of ancient Hindu thought, merged with my conceptual interest in the body, craft, and the domestic...to provide a physical form correlating to states of consciousness.”
A chic series of nesting dresses, “Five Sheaths” is multi-part sculptural installation in the form of wearable metaphors and wood. A universally understandable set of correspondences -- brown for flesh, red for breath and blood energy, aqua for the mind, sky blue for the intellect, orange for bliss -- represent individual and palimpsestic holistic states of consciousness. Worn in layers by the artist, they are displayed in sequence in the gallery on carved wood hangers that seem like divining rods and reference the walking-stick form which is also a part of her metaphor of the seeking traveler. Green sees wood as a democratic medium, functional, pragmatic, warm, and practical, like the clothes. Indeed all her material choices are reflective not only of her formal, stylistic, and aesthetic character, but also provide effective metaphorical dimension to their meanings.
Sculptures include a deconstructed lightbox in which a shade printed with the image of a perfect blue sky is illuminated from behind as though by a window. More than an engaging architectural pun, it was inspired by the words of a Swami who believed that if he could roll up the sky like a scroll, he would see the light of truth behind it. “Standing on a Lotus” is a hardened burlap owner form, large enough for the artist to stand on, with a center of comforting eece-lined slippers, wooden walking sticks, and accessories of fleecy arm and knee pads. It is both a representation of perfection through balance and lightness as well as a mechanism of physical effort. Most of Green’s sculptures are the result of labor- intensive hand-crafting, and many are based on the motif of the eternal circle, which both joins and encloses. Performative, interactive, tactile, and conceptual, both the sculptures and the clothing involve the presence and participation of the viewer, making it all the stronger in articulating what Green sees as the connection between body and spirit.