Art is long and Time is swift.
Peggy Chiang’s exhibition spleen and ideal opens at Prairie Gallery in Pilsen on Saturday, April 23rd. I’m pleased to write this introduction to one of my best friends, and sister in art.
Peggy and I met in 2007 in Baltimore, MD. Around then, she reached her limit with painting trompe l’oeil, and started to subvert its conventions using a broader range of materials, particularly found and cast objects. Some of Peggy’s earliest formal experiments involved making things like paper much more rigid and durable, but also working with risky things like sheets of glass. One of Peggy’s earliest works was a rug that looked like the pelt of a golden retriever. I remember visiting her studio regularly as she combed dye through a sheet of white fake fur. She had also sculpted its head using a taxidermy mold of a dog’s teeth and jaws as an armature. Peggy’s own dog was a labrador-beagle mix. I guess her works are spectral.
From then on, Peggy would sculpt a unique strain of Suburban Gothic vignettes. In 2008, she made a work from a handcrafted paper bag, in which she placed a novelty water fountain, shaped like candles. At the time, Peggy said she was thinking about the fountain of youth. In this show, another font of sorts is modeled after an Yves Saint-Laurent “Opium” perfume display lamp and a patient simulator machine, filled with tea. Cast poppy pods from bronze that rest, libertine, across the gallery floor. One of the poppy pods is enclosed in what looks like a cat toy. Meanwhile, a sleeping cat is sealed in a pillowed vitrine that evokes the deep night.
My wasted cat, in searching for a litter,
Bestirs its mangy paws from post to post;
(A poet’s soul that wanders in the gutter,
With the jaded voice of a shiv’ring ghost).
Poppy, opium and melodrama tint the lives of all artists in The Flowers of Evil, a collection of poems by Charles Baudelaire–from which this exhibition takes its title. Peggy’s new works are fittingly patinated with neuroses and melancholy. And romance. The records Spleen and Ideal by Dead Can Dance and Aku no Hana by Buck-Tick are tied for the perfect soundtrack to this show.