A three-person show featuring work by women artists, New Works by: Yuliya Lanina, Shelli Tollman, & Krissy Teegerstrom, recently opened at Bale Creek Allen (BCA) Gallery in Fort Worth. The exhibition brings together two Austin-based artists and a Los Angeles-based artist, each drawing on their own personal histories while working in distinctly different styles.
Paintings of hybrid cat-human figures from Yuliya Lanina’s Felininity series hang on one long wall of the gallery. Though these whimsical anthropomorphic creatures are painted in playful poses, I was immediately reminded of the more reverent cat-related objects and sculptures highlighted in the Dallas Museum of Art’s 2016 exhibition Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. Lanina’s work is inextricably linked to a long history of human fascination with cats.
Around the corner from Lanina’s wall of paintings sat a lone animatronic cat-human sculpture. The hybridity of creatures that feels so lighthearted in Lanina’s paintings takes on a more serious tone in this work. This could be attributed to the cat’s worn face, or its lacy dress that harkens back to an earlier and more restrained time. But also, behind the figure stands a Ukrainian flag made from felt. The flag isn’t making a hollow statement: Bale Creek Allen mentioned that Lanina was born in Russia and that half of the proceeds from these works will be donated to relief funds supporting Ukraine.
Across from Lanina’s work hangs paintings by LA-based Shelli Tollman. Born in South Africa in 1966, Tollman grew up during the apartheid era. Upon first glance, her work feels childlike, due to her folk art style and her depiction of settings like an arcade, but as you look closer a more ominous narrative unfolds. In one painting, a white soldier holding a gun sits perched atop a carousel, and in another a lion attacks its prey in the foreground while in the background, a white man holding a hatchet walks towards a young Black boy.
Beyond the allusions to her time in South Africa, Tollman also explores issues related to her own mental health. Though her visual references may be more personal and difficult to parse for a viewer, titles like Nail Polish, Talcum Powder, and Suicide make her sentiments abundantly clear.
In the center of the gallery hang six capes created by Krissy Teegerstrom. These sewn works deal with topics of grief, rage, loss, alienation, and abuse. While the clearly visible exteriors of the many of the capes feature foreboding imagery such as a scorpion, a death’s-head hawkmoth, and a mystical eye, the hidden interiors of the capes, which are simpler in terms of stitching and detail, are equally compelling.
During my visit, Allen opened the capes to reveal the beautiful linings and I couldn’t help but feel that the work was also about transformation.
New Works by: Yuliya Lanina, Shelli Tollman, & Krissy Teegerstrom will be on view at BCA Gallery in downtown Fort Worth through May 1, 2022.