A Part of Things is a sculptural series that plays with pareidolia, revealing our tendency to recognize ourselves in the landscape. Nestled within classically inspired forms, common beach stones hide human faces while gems or fossils emphasize erogenous zones. A Part of Things explores the body’s centrality in our anthropocentric understanding of the natural world and, in turn, the importance of nature in the formulation of our self-image.
While searching for stones to embed within her sculptures and reliefs, Chan assumes the role of scavenger. She wanders beaches and scours gem shows, scanning thousands of rocks and picking up every one that resembles a breast, nipple, vagina, penis, sphincter, or face. She sorts, categorizes, and pairs them in accordance to size, color compatibility, or similarity in shape or striation. Stones quarried or excavated are bathed in the ocean and laid out in the moonlight. The others, found along the coast, have been cleansed in this way their entire lives, tumbled by the sea and sleeping along the shoreline.
Chan uses Venetian plaster to impart her works with a paradoxical lightness and gravity. The marble that was once carved by hand by classical sculptors is now pulverized in an industrial process to produce the material Chan uses. Each relief references archetypical nude poses, from The Three Muses to a male version of the odalisque. The compositions are cropped to focus on the conventionally erotic areas of each figure, as precious gems simultaneously accentuate and censor private zones of the body. Busts in the show are intimate portraits of the artist’s friends with their faces concealed by common igneous rock. These anonymous figures withhold and invite completion.
Stone has been a medium for toolmaking, worship, and human expression since the Neolithic period. The practice of reshaping mineral matter into human and animal form grows from the deepest root of art. With A Part of Things, Chan brings conceptual and formal simplicity to rest side by side with natural forces of geology, human perceptual bias, and the common language of western sculpture.
Cara Chan (b. 1986, NJ) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Chan received her MFA from The University of California, Los Angeles in 2017, and her BFA from New York University in 2009. She has been an artist in residence at Banff Center for the Arts, ACRE Projects, Vermont Studio Center, Ox-bow School of Art, Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, and was recently a fellow at The Lighthouse Works.