Night is a Girl


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The Solipsism of an Inverted Cartography, by Michael Macfeat.This is the catalogue of recent sculpture and drawings by Terri Saulin. Opening receptions: April 1 and April 15, 2011,6-10pm.
Tiger Strikes Asteroid, 319 N. 9th Street 4th fl., Phila., PA

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Night is a Girl

  1. 1. The Solipsism of an Inverted CartographyTERRI SAULIN: SCULPTURE AT TIGER S TRIKES AS TEROID“On Exactitude in Science…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that themap of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety ofa Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guildsstruck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for pointwith it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Fore-bears had been, saw that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that theydelivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, thereare Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no otherRelic of the Disciplines of Geography.”Suarez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, XLV, Lerida, 1658 from Jorge Luis Borges, A Universal History of Infamy,Penguin Books, London, 1975 ISBNo-14-003959-7 We encounter what resembles a coral bed are of a much more benevolent origin than thesebut upon further examination it bears a family hybrids might imply. The process begins withresemblance to an unholy marriage of disparate cartography. Cartography is the science or art ofelements. These resemble the exoskeletal remains making maps. It is also the catalyst that inspiresof an impossible and somewhat harrowing sym- the sculpture of Terri Saulin. Her use of mappingbiosis of human organs hosting parasitic natural calls to mind the work of the late Ree Morton, oneaccretions of coral and wood combined with the of my teachers at Philadelphia College of Art, al-impossible sprouting of the limbs and heads of though Terri was unfamiliar with her work beforeinfant humans. One can imagine Mary Shelley our discussions. Rather than using cartography increating this fictional aquatic homunculus, the its traditional role of simply mapping, the mapsbed of a bizarre coral colony known only through she makes generate a new and fantastic topogra-its calcified remains. In its animate state it would phy with more similarities to a mutated coral bedbe a frightening experience for the scientist en- than the plant beds of an urban yard, which iscountering this undersea Frankenstein’s monster. the actual landscape examined. Often the originalPerhaps it is an act of mercy to only consider the product of the mapping process which breeds thetraces it left behind. porcelain topography will be remapped and those The sculptures of Terri Saulin, however, maps overlaid on other maps and traced to pro-
  2. 2. duce another series of shapes. It is a labyrinthianand solipsistic use of the mapmaking process andan inversion of the process when the topologyproduced by the map is mapped again. Like theBorges story above, the sculpture of Terri Saulinemploys a radical expansion of the cartographicprocess beyond its traditional uses and limita-tions. Her prolific production of these porcelainsculptures may realistically cover the entire smallarea of land that she has obsessively mapped overtime, although their actual placement might besubjective. The production of a three dimensionaltopography rather than the mirroring of one andproducing a three dimensional schematic is theinverse of the traditional cartographic process.This process itself is sometimes again inverted bycreating maps of the porcelain topography thathas been created by another map. This providesanother additional shapes, which are traced andoverlaid to drawings and potentially more objects.Once the initial information is transferred fromthe mundane reality of an urban yard, the optionsof mapping, tracing, and casting could conceiv-ably mimic the spiral of a Fibonacci series, a math-ematical principle applicable to many examplesin nature, that explodes into an orgy of the self-referential reproduction. The system informationproduced and altered by the overlapping, tracingand remapping of existing sculptures can sustainitself without a return to the scene of the originallandscape if she so desires. Topography is both the starting point andthe end of a solipsistic system generated by thecartographic record of her back yard. The choice fig. 1
  3. 3. of the yard as paradigm is an extension of her loveof her miniature botanical gardens, the process ofplanting in general and the growth of herbs as afuture element of her remarkable cuisine. Duringmy visits to her studio she served lunch. What awonderful chef she is! I had some of the best mealsin recent memory in her kitchen, which looks outthrough her sunroom to the garden that is the in-spiration and the site of the maps. If she thinksthat I have had my last meal in her kitchen she iswrong. Her gastronomic skills will inspire me tofind reasons to be invited to lunch. A visual vocabulary of human-like organsresult from the tracing of maps over other maps.They resemble organ shapes but they appear tohave secreted a calcareous carbonate shell thatleft behind a brittle record of an organ not lon-ger there. Along with the organ shapes are othernatural shapes, coral, wood, bone and the recentaddition of doll parts. The porcelain shares thewhiteness of bleached coral and bone, with thegloss of clear glazes applied in small doses, per-haps acknowledging the wetness of living things.These objects appear to be generated by a natu-ral process of accretion, mimicking coral in theirassembly. Hollow sea urchin shapes develop, theporcelain giving them the ghostly look of coral.Coral, the major point of reference regarding theappearance of the work, is an animal that repro-duces asexually or hermaphroditically. This is a cu-rious subtext, considering Terri herself describesthe recent inclusion of baby parts as representa-tive of reproduction or its absence. The shapes are the result of the overlays of fig. 2
  4. 4. multiple maps of the yard. A vocabulary of variousporcelain shapes are assembled into what ends upsuggesting a coral bed. A major recurring elementis what appears to be the exoskeletons of humanorgans, with holes that may have once been thepoint of entry of arteries or tubes. They also sug-gest the void left from the point other minor or-gans once shared space that are now absent. Theorgan shapes tend to be the central and larger ele-ments to the sculpture, the point of attachmentfor smaller elements recalling bone, wood, coraland other shapes of natural origin. In the morerecent works the addition of cast doll parts leadsthe work from a natural history to a human onethat never came to fruition. I habitually do a quick analysis of a personsbookcase while in their homes. A great deal canbe learned about someone very quickly by whatthey read. The bookshelves in the Saulin homeare heavy on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,two philosophers that use the term “rhizome”or “rhizomatic” to describe theory and researchthat allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entryand exit points in interpretation. The rhizomeworks with horizontal and uses trans-species con-nections, which directly relates to the structure ofthis sculpture. In botany, the rhizome is a hori-zontal root stem found underground. If detachedand broken into pieces, they may result in grow-ing into an entirely new plant. Saulin’s sculpturelooks as if it is the product of a rhizomatic systemof vegetative reproduction, the shapes repeatingthemselves throughout this body of work withtheoretical similarity. fig. 3
  5. 5. There is an inherent beauty in these exo-skeletal works and a natural elegance. In a curi-ous way, the recent inclusion of doll parts, whichwould be innocent enough by themselves, createa malevolence when combined with the shapesthat seem the result of the mining a coral sea bed.Perhaps this emanates from imagining the par-tial human shapes in the aquatic environment, adrowned antediluvian world that could have been fig. 4pulled from a story by J. G. Ballard. During myearliest visits to Terri’s studio, the doll elementswere not cast yet although they may have been inthe theoretical process. They were not what I wasexpecting. They appeared and they did not havethe effect I thought they might when combinedwith the other elements. I read them as addingan air of malevolence and the horror of scientificexperimentation to the work. I am not sure whichdirection Terri Saulin will take this sculpture inthe future but I am certain that if the path leadsthrough the kitchen I will certainly be followingher work closely. Her culinary skills are so re-markable that she may have found the cure to my fig. 5chronic tardiness. Like Pavlov’s dog, I find myselfsalivating in the cab, anticipating her gastronomictriumphs. I enjoy the sculpture but I refrain fromputting it in my mouth.-Michael Macfeat, March 2011“If we were able to take as the finest allegory ofsimulation the Borges tale where the cartogra-phers of the Empire draw up a map so detailedthat it ends up exactly covering the territory (butwhere the decline of the Empire sees this map fig. 6
  6. 6. Top: fig. 8, Bottom: fig. 9fig. 7
  7. 7. become frayed and finally ruined, a few shredsstill discernible in the deserts — the metaphysicalbeauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witnessto an Imperial pride and rotting like a carcass,returning to the substance of the soil, rather asan aging double ends up being confused with thereal thing) — then this fable has come full circlefor us, and now hasnothing but the discrete charm of second-order fig. 10simulacra. Abstraction today is no longer thatof the map, the double, the mirror or the con-cept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory,a referential being or substance. It is the genera-tion of models of a real without origin or reality:a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes themap, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the mapthat precedes the territory — PRECESSION OFSIMULACRA — it is the map that engenders theterritory and if we were to revive the fable today,it would be the territory whose shreds are slowlyrotting across the map. It is the real, and not themap, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in thedeserts which are no longer those of the Empirebut our own: The desert of the real itself.”-Jean Baudrillard, The Precession of Simulacra fig. 11
  8. 8. Top: fig. 13, Bottom: fig. 14fig. 12
  9. 9. Theresa Saulin received herMFA from the University of the Arts andher BFA from Moore College of Art andDesign. She currently teaches CriticalDiscourse, and a variety of Ceramics andSculpture classes in Moore College of Artand Design’s BFA, Young Artist’s Work-shop and Continuing Studies programs.She also teaches children at Society HillSynagogue. This past year, Theresa was aguest lecturer and had a solo exhibition,Lines of Flight, at Finlandia University inHancock, MI. She also participated intwo exhibitions sponsored by the 2010National Council for Education in the fig. 15Clay Arts; Artist/Educator, at RowanUniversity, NJ and 6-III* Outdoor Sculp-ture Exhibition, at The Haverford Schoolin Haverford, PA. Theresa received a 2010Faculty Development Grant from MooreCollege of Art and Design to prepare re-search for the Night Is A Girl exhibitionat Tiger Strikes Asteroid, April 1, 2011. Theresa’s interests in biology,botany, classical music, geology, and gas-tronomy guide her construction. Shebuilds delicate, alternating smooth anddensely textured, porcelain sculptures.They are physical explorations of philo-sophical ideas. Without beginning orend, the sculptures suggest forms from fig. 16nature but, just as easily, they mimic thebranching, burrowing, nonhierarchical cover: Juno Waltonstructure of the internet. She photographs fig. 1: Lillies and the Milkeyway fig. 9: Drown and Drain (detail)the forms in various stages of production. fig. 2: Juno Was Adamant fig. 10: BwO IIThe forms and photos become her still fig. 3: Ms. X Explains BwO fig. 11: Persephonelife. The system of distilled information fig. 4: Ms. X Explains BwO (detail) fig. 12: Drown and Drain fig. 5: BwO I fig. 13: Destroprovides an elastic and infinitely expand- fig. 6: Wasp Traces Orchid fig. 14: Watanabeable language that fuel future drawings, fig. 7: Ninsun fig. 15: Ninsun (detail)prints and sculpture. fig. 8: Lillies and the Milkeyway (detail) fig. 16: Orchid Traces Wasp