A visit to the solo exhibition by Dallas photographer and artist Kathy Lovas at the Liliana Bloch Gallery feels overwhelming.
The gallery's walls are lined with hyper-realistic imagery, installation, paint and pieces of clothing, including prom dresses, blue jeans and women's underwear. Titled "Clothing Crimes ... and Misdemeanors," the show largely centers on 88 specially printed images of clothing spread along one enormous wall.
While the work itself is intriguing, the story behind it might cause viewers to look more closely. The clothes in the prints were found in Lovas' car after it was stolen from her front driveway four years ago.
The theft occurred on a Friday afternoon, and Lovas did not notice her Honda SUV was missing until her husband mentioned it. After police found her car, Lovas picked it up from the auto pound and noticed it contained a pile of clothes. Rather than fret about it, she went to work.
"I thought: Oh, awesome art project," Lovas said over the phone. "Right away, I told Liliana [Bloch], and she was pretty excited about it, too." The two have been working together since 2014.
Lovas tried to imagine the story that would intertwine with auto theft and an abandoned wardrobe.
"Apparently they must have been living in it or something," Lovas said. "It seemed like there were men's clothes and women's clothes, and they were small sizes. The women's clothes were size five or something. The styles that many younger people would wear. It seemed like maybe it was a couple."
Before pursuing an artistic career, Lovas graduated with an undergraduate degree in biology. Biology plays a major role in her practice, particularly her old habit of collecting marine algae and documenting their location.
"One of the areas of biology that always fascinated me was taxonomy — collecting leaves and pressing them and the Latin names and everything," Lovas said.
Hidden along the perimeters of the life-size clothing items is Lovas' made- up genus and species classification system. It takes Latinate terms usually applied for flora and fauna, but repurposes them for the clothing that her car thieves left behind.
Lovas hasn't been able to attend her exhibition due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. She had the works delivered and installed remotely over FaceTime.
Hanging behind Bloch's desk in the gallery is a work titled DOPL / GNGR. It consists of black-and-white photos depicting her mother's childhood that Lovas distorted during the image transfer process.
"What is a photograph?" Lovas asks. "That's always fascinated me. We say: 'This is Grandma.' But it isn't Grandma. It's a black-and-white piece of paper that looks like Grandma."
The smaller works orbiting the main wall Lovas calls the "misdemeanors."
These are installations, as opposed to just hung images, and include actual articles of clothing, such as an old yellow prom dress in a clear plastic bag.
Lovas incorporates literature in her work as much as science. A piece titled JSTC: After Oliver Ready refers to the famed translator's intro to Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. Lovas blurs and distorts Ready's words, making them only partially legible.
"I 'glitch' the text, so I'm basically questioning the whole idea of justice being done when a crime is committed," Lovas said. "In a way, I feel that it pertains to everything going on in the world now."
Christopher Mosley is a Dallas-based freelance writer.
"Clothing Crimes ... And Misdemeanors" is
On view through Saturday at the Liliana Bloch Gallery, 4741 Memphis St., Dallas. By appointment only. lilianablochgallery.com.