Growing up Mormon, as expected of devout young men, I served as a missionary for two years. My first assignment was to seek souls willing to convert in an unremarkable suburb of Denver. While I was there a prominent Mormon leader’s high school son shot himself in the head rather than submit to his father’s demand for a suitable haircut. My missionary fellow and I were encouraged to avail ourselves to the high school students to talk about Mormon ideas on grieving, death, suicide, and life after. It doesn’t matter the mundanity of my experience with these exchanges. Any time I tell this tale it’s received as something juicy. I get it. To me the gossipy bit has everything to do with the supposedly wise and sensitive men setting me up as a defacto grief counsellor with no preparation or training. I doubt that’s what listeners find juicy. The setting, after all, was Columbine High School, and the subject matter was death by gun.
EC Brown and Nancy Lu Rosenheim both work from direct observation. Renderers. They are neither terribly close to the constraints of realism, nor distant from their chosen subject matter. Their stories are similar to the conversations I had at Columbine about what happens after death, impossibly strange and totally ordinary. Sure, EC’s portraits of members of the Bhadrakali Society seem endlessly obscure and exotic, but they look the way they do because the images include outfits from the seventies. Everyone dressed like that at the time. Sure, Nancy Lu’s cranes have mutations and tumors, but the movement of a bird has more to do with its presence than the monstrous threat it battles. Add to this the artists’ play with material, color, marks and gestures. The works are juicy, but probably for nine of the ten reasons you think they are.