by Danielle Avram
Published in a free takeaway available during the exhibition at Liliana Bloch Gallery, Fall 2020
Kathy Lovas, CLOTHING CRIMES…and Misdemeanors
Initially trained as a biologist, Kathy Lovas has an unending desire to find and create connectivity between seemingly disparate experiences; she is truly fascinated by the human condition and all of its foibles. Rooted in stream-of-consciousness, Lovas’s work is an ongoing, self-reflexive dialogue through which she uses personal experiences to negotiate photographic and archival ontologies.
In 2016 Lovas’s car was stolen from the driveway of her home, a lovingly maintained ranch where she has lived with her husband Charles (and raised three now-grown children) since the family relocated to Dallas from the Midwest. After the car was recovered and towed back to the house, Lovas discovered a pile of men’s and women’s clothes in the back seat. Based on the sizes and styles, she surmised that the clothing likely belonged to two individuals – the people who had stolen her car.
Rather than take the clothing to the police, she embarked on an artistic investigation of the experience, using the clothes to craft an expansive narrative about love, family, aging, and memory. Interwoven is humorous wordplay culled from literature, the Internet, and legalese, which toys with the indexicality of her self-made archive.
The resulting body of work, CLOTHING CRIMES…and Misdemeanors, is roughly broken into two sections. The “crimes” are centered around the case of the stolen car, while the “misdemeanors” are based on clothing-related memories from Lovas’s life.
The alternative artist’s book UUMV/OOTD is a document of all 88 articles of clothing. Named after the legal term “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” and the hashtag “outfit of the day,” the book/installation is based on protocols used for examining clothing found at a crime scene as well as traditional biological indexes. A DASS inkjet transfer process was used to highlight the materiality of the image, likening each article of clothing to that of a plant specimen pressed onto a page. The accompanying photograph (UUMV: The Car) and video (UUMV: The Movie) show the car after it was returned and the artist’s reenactment of the path the thieves likely travelled during the event. Taken as a whole, the series demonstrates the fallibility of investigative practices; photographs, eyewitness accounts, or educated guesses may often be the only – and not entirely trustworthy – forms of evidence available.
The related JENZ/LWEZ: after James Joyce takes a more lyrical approach to unfurling the mystery. Tagging 10 pairs of women’s jeans recovered from the car with quotes from the beginning and end of Joyce’s short story “Eveline,” Lovas likens the possible female thief to Joyce’s protagonist – a young woman struggling with the decision to leave her home in Ireland by following her lover abroad. Was this woman a willing or unwilling participant? Was she running away with a lover or stuck in a life she wants to leave?
PROM/RVNG, AT17, and DPOL/GNGR segue into the more personal “misdemeanors.” A young Lovas was unable to attend prom because her date was banned from attending, the unworn yellow dress tucked away. Teenage physical insecurities are reflected in an image of Lovas and her high school friends at the beach, set to the soundtrack of Janis Ian’s, “At Seventeen.” A set of black and white photographs depict the artist’s mother and her twin brother, dressed in coats made of raccoon fur and wool; fashion trends of a particular era that could now be viewed as crimes against animals. The glitched images and inclusion of sound and sculptural elements allude to the complicated nature of memories – how they are triggered by certain songs and objects, only to be tarnished by later revelations and shifting contexts, and muddled by time.
The exhibition is punctuated by JSTC: after Oliver Ready, a corrupted section of text from Ready’s recent translation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic Crime and Punishment. Pulled from the introduction, the text ends with the phrase, “justice, no doubt, will be done.” In the context of CLOTHING CRIMES…and Misdemeanors, the concept of justice remains open-ended. Lovas will never know if the car thieves were caught, but does it matter if her car was returned no worse for wear? Does a person ever fully get over slights they experienced at a young age, even if they go on to lead a full and successful life? Can memories ever be wholly truthful if events can be continuously reread through fresh eyes?
Perhaps, as Lovas posits through her ongoing reexaminations of the archive, it is best to revel in the uncertainties, the inconclusives, and the imperfections. After all, isn’t it more fun to play with things than to let them be?
Danielle Avram is a writer and curator based in Dallas, TX.
"UUMV / OOTD: The Takeaway" (installation detail at Liliana Bloch Gallery with critical essay by Danielle Avram)
Medium: offset print on newsprint paper, steel pushpins
Takeaway dimensions: 15´´W x 12´´H folded, 15´´W x 24´´H open
Photo Credit: Todora Photography
"UUMV / OOTD: The Takeaway" (installation view at Liliana Bloch Gallery with critical essay by Danielle Avram)
Medium: offset print on newsprint paper, steel pushpins, steel tool cabinet
Installation dimensions: variable; Takeaway dimensions: 15´´W x 12´´H folded, 15´´W x 24´´H open
Photo Credit: Todora Photography
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