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Boston Art Review: LaKela Brown and Ruby Sky Stiler at Providence College Galleries

November 9, 2018


November 9, 2018

The story of western civilization is largely narrated by its objects; the likenesses of its most prominent figures, icons of its faiths, depictions of its victories or commemorations of its loss. The voices and experiences largely left out of these narratives are well known, making the suggestive histories that artists Ruby Sky Stiler and LaKela Brown build through their work a compelling inclusion in Providence College Galleries’ (PC–G) current exhibition “Classic Beauty: 21st Century Artists on Ancient [Greek] Form.”

Based in New York City, Brown and Stiler are both female-identifying artists whose work often employs either depictions of female form or the identifiable accessories of female adornment. Two specific pieces in the exhibition, “Jewelry, Chicken Head and Hands Composition with Gold,” 2018 and “Seated Woman,”2015 by Brown and Stiler respectively, use the vernacular forms of the museum artifact and monument while leaving room for a productive instability around their origin or perceived history. These are not objects of stone, or a material that would link them to a specific earthen place or geographical site. Rather they are formed from materials that could as easily be associated with theatrical scenery as artistic construction – quick-dry plaster, foam, fiberglass, paper collage.

Installed in PC–G’s Reilly gallery, Stiler’s “Seated Woman” becomes as much architectural as figurative. Formed from a stack of roughly ten large blocks Stiler’s Woman reaches to over twelve feet tall. Due to the modularity of construction and the figure’s conspicuously missing head, Stiler prompts a further commitment to her theatrical construction – perhaps not all the blocks had been recovered from the sculpture’s fictional site of discovery and we are only being presented with what could be preserved.