Rema Hort Mann Foundation

Michelle Carla Handel

I combine media such as rubber, ceramics, photography, and textiles to create sculptural work that sometimes possesses an illusionary or trompe l’oeil effect. The surprise and disguise of material is integral to my making process. Through form and material arrangement I attempt to create my own kind of visual taxonomy that describes extraverbal types of understanding. My sculptures are not fully representational, but they hint at everyday objects or body parts. These material arrangements are a way for me to address variabilities in perception, and how our biased minds make meaning. My work may imply utility and often possesses a sensual fleshiness suggesting something illicit or transgressive. Arrangements within the continuum from body part to object are often absurd or humorous. Whether pieces are all ceramic like ‘Sunnyside Down’, or made of stretchy rubber and textiles like ‘Small Yearn (Letdown)’ and ‘Not Your Brand of Humor’, they are likely to sit or droop somewhere between body part and utilitarian object. They may conjure sex, or some improbable purpose, with titles offering hints at meaning.

Where I incorporate photography into the work, I riff around ideas of self reference and layers of mediated content. I copy, duplicate, and make do-overs to confuse distinctions between what is real from what is simulated. For me these gestures relate to the way our minds process a daily onslaught of warped and refracted information. In the works ‘Oddments, Illusions, Engrams’ and ‘Smoke, Mirrors, Neurons’, each structure physically refers to some sort of didactic panel or bulletin board on casters, suggesting a source of information. Large scale photographs depict arrangements of disparate objects that are mapped or cataloged like entomological specimens. An identical arrangement of actual 3D objects is installed on the the opposite panel — ‘re-dos’ of the objects from the photo but with a shift in color and material. Arranging, framing, remaking, and documenting these objects is a way to create order out of randomness and understanding amidst complexity. Wall works like ‘Cloudbusting’ and ‘Little Sucker’ engage with the language of painting by combining photo-printed or hand-dyed fabric with three dimensional objects to form singular compositions. Other works like ‘Flipside’ and ‘Deep Dive’ are a mixture of hard and soft, incorporating ceramic or plaster parts with upholstered fabric elements. The addition of digital imagery in these works creates an effect of moving back and forth between different levels of space, and plays with current notions of meta and the self-referential.