Redux’s visiting trio digs deep into domesticity 

Homeward Bound

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Surreal Victorian-style furniture, quilts, and paintings on wood panel: If we were playing the game "Which of these things is not like the others?" the answer would probably be "all three."

These objects, however, are all part of Redux's latest exhibition, Home Again, Home Again, and they have a lot more in common than you might imagine. Curated by Redux's former executive director Karen Ann Myers, this group show features works by Allison Reimus, Sean Riley, and Carmela Laganse, all of whom explore ideas of domesticity through vastly different, yet oddly complementary means. How, these artists ask, do the objects we surround ourselves with influence our lives, in terms of both our day-to-day mundanities and our secret, inner psyches?

Reimus, whose paintings on wood panel depict interior spaces like living rooms or close-ups of what could be wallpaper or upholstery patterns, is drawn to the timeless push-and-pull between form and function that plays out in the ways we furnish or decorate the spaces we live in. "Most people, I think, just want to surround themselves with things they like — things that are useful, or things that make them happy. However, in my own experiences, it was never that simple."

She grew up in a home where interior design was extremely important, and she spent much of her time as a child inhabiting indoor spaces, rather than outdoor. These experiences created a sort of inner conflict that has persisted throughout her adulthood and greatly influenced her art. "I always felt a pull between thinking that [interior design] was indeed important and that it was sad. That's because most of the time, it was used ... to cover up some deeper issue, either emotional or an actual, tangible problem. Broken window? Buy opaque curtains. Depressed? Buy new throw pillows. It will make you better, at least for an afternoon. As an artist, this idea of decoration and motif being an emotional filler is rich with content."

Abstract painter and sculptor Sean Riley will exhibit his latest project, which consists of a series of quilts. After Riley's father died in 2008, Riley took up quilt-making as a way to memorialize his dad. "When my father passed away, I was in charge of his estate, emptying the house and collecting all his clothing," Riley says. Although his original intent was to donate the clothes, he'd recently seen a touring art exhibition of quilts that stayed on his mind. Soon, the idea of making a quilt out of his father's clothing was born. "When I saw the fabric, it really moved me, and I knew I needed to make my own quilt. It's not something I would have decided to do had I not had this clothing of my father's."

The self-taught quilter has so far created four quilts, one of which incorporates hand-embroidered text. "The text in that quilt really sums up my feelings about this memorial project and what I'm trying to commemorate about my father," he says. "I like making that statement in hand embroidery because it's such a slow, deliberate action. It gives more power to what the words are trying to get across."

As an intriguing side-note, Riley's quilt project is flipping the tradition of quilting as a matriarchal, female-centered undertaking on its head; he is, of course, a man quilting in memory of another man. It's hard to tell as of yet whether that will grow into anything more than a simple fact, especially since it's ancillary to the true heart of the project. One could see this feature of his work as a sign of our changing ideas of domesticity and gender roles: Quilts are such strong signifiers of the home that it's impossible to separate the two.

One hundred and eighty degrees from the familiarity of quilts, Carmela Laganse will exhibit a series of furniture inspired by popular culture's current obsession with vampires. Mingling Victorian-style fabrics with ceramics, the pieces take two ordinary symbols of the home and put them together, "changing the proposition," Laganse says. The result can be startling and uncanny. As Myers describes it, "Beautiful, rich textiles and familiar shapes, patterns, and forms become curious and puzzling, perhaps even threatening under closer inspection."

Threatening indeed: the furniture pieces, Laganse says, are based off of body gestures of receivership, or succumbing, that are especially popular with beautiful, sexually charged women in vampire movies. For Laganse, there's a relationship between vampirism — youth, beauty, immortality, and, of course, the whole idea of sucking someone's life away — and the kind of rampant consumerism that the recent recession has brought sharply into relief.

So why choose the warm, singsong title Home Again, Home Again for this show? While domesticity doesn't always necessarily lead one to the idea of home­ — indeed, domesticity itself can be a pretty complicated thing, especially if you're talking to a feminist — the word "home," with all its associations, kept coming up when Myers and the artists were trying to decide on a title for the exhibition. "We all kept using the word 'home' ... Coming Home, Homeward, Going Home, At Home, etc., but none of them seemed very special," says Myers. The group finally settled on "Home Again, Home Again," with its pleasing rhythm and nursery rhyme connotations that have a particular ability to be both comforting and unsettling, depending on the context. And that, as visitors to this uncommon exhibition will surely agree, couldn't be more fitting.

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