Elena Stonaker and Galia Linn: “Rituals of Sphinx and Lamassu”

at MaRS Gallery

Installation view “Rituals of Sphinx and Lamassu”
Photo: courtesy MaRS Gallery

Entering Galia Linn and Elena Stonaker’s two-person show feels, at least at first, less like walking into a mixed-media painting and ceramics exhibition and more like being transported through a bright warren of screened-off alcoves, altars, and hidden concrete temples festooned with colorful offerings, guarded by ancient stones, possessing the powerful yet capricious folk-magic of old and new household saints. But soon enough, the emotionally and optically rich narrative and aesthetic majesty of the discrete objects on display demand their due. Linn’s glazed stoneware “pots” are known for their torn-open skins, glistening surfaces, fleshy tactility, seductive texture, corporeal contours, cracked skin-like crusts, and visceral palette. They are vessels for containing only spirits, guardians protecting only themselves. Stonaker’s paintings and large-scale mixed media assemblage tapestries spin complex webs across distorted pictorial space. Composed using reclaimed patterns and found objects, and exulting in glitter, beads, baubles, and ribbons, these works channel a less contemplative, more vernacular, pagan magic.

Evocatively titled “Rituals of Sphinx and Lamassu,” the strength of this two-person show lies in the asymmetrical harmonic balance of these two artists’ esoteric, eccentric, metaphysical and aesthetic connections. The work was made “in tandem,” which is to say not quite collaboratively, but concurrently, in shared studio space and with the exhibition in mind. Traces of their proximal sojourn are enshrined in the installation here and there, as recreated atelier vignettes supporting the lovely disorder of works in progress are placed throughout the gallery’s sprawl of large and small spaces. Most often, the works share these spaces, with paired subseries of Linn’s (mostly) floor and pedestal ceramics and Stonaker’s (mostly mounted and suspended) paintings and mixed-media weavings installed in staged conversation. To that point, language and narrative content is important to both artists; Linn uses figurative words like Vessel, Guardian, and Fist while Stonaker uses atmospherics like Cloud, Place, and Web. Both approach occupying space as a challenge to be met, referencing and directly involving the viewer’s physical body in dimensional, experiential, allegorical systems of scale, detail, and meaning—as though the pots were the body, and the tapestries were the world.