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A chimera is a creature composed of the parts of many beasts in Greek mythology, or an organism with cells from more than one distinct genotype. Sticky Entanglements, an installation by Beth Yashnyk and Fanni Somogyi at Transformer, is something of a chimera. In this immersive installation, there’s no wall text to distinguish one artist from the other or set off individual pieces. It’s one organism, with the two artists’ work spliced together to form a single irresistible hybrid.
The artists share some creative DNA and both focus on “glitch as a point of metamorphosis,” but Yashnyk depicts mostly human bodies and Somogyi takes insect and plant life as subjects. The results of these glitches are cross-bred, Frankenstein creations that provoke curiosity. Where did these critters come from, and where might they exist? Who or what birthed them? Is that long knobby shape a finger, an intestine, a snake, or an antenna?
Yashnyk’s anatomical assemblages are joyful even if they’re more than a little David Cronenberg-esque, with bouquets of toes and thumbs, ankles that morph into torsos, and cut out nostrils that could be portals to another world. Animations show these bodies in motion, morphing into new shapes, the parts dripping, melting, and throbbing. Reminiscent of human ears grown on the backs of mice, these corporeal mashups revel in the weirdness and marvels of biology. Human bodies are a messy and fascinating business, and full of endless possibilities.
Somogyi’s bug-like sculptures are by turns hard and soft, friendly and threatening. Many of them double as containers or planters holding plants both real and fake. Some appear to be partly robotic or mechanical, or are tinted with candy-coated hues; others seem totally organic. The living colliding with the artificial creates a tension between the real and the fantastical, and suggests an imagined future of gene spliced bugs that can scavenge materials or return to nature.
The stickiness of the exhibition title is evident not just in the ways the creators are stuck together in the gallery, but in a shared interest in material exploration and objects that are begging to be touched. Yashnyk’s assemblages and Somogyi’s sculptures each reward close looking and examining from multiple angles. The multilayered constructions by Yashnyk use wood, acrylic, and Mylar cut into interesting shapes, with drawings on transparent pieces building upon other cutouts. The insectoid sculptures by Somogyi are constructed from a bevy of materials that range from industrial steel to fluffy felt. “A sense of being” is a spidery steel wall hanging filled with dried Spanish moss and flowers, with a small mirror at the back, but you’ll have to crouch down to bug level to see your reflection. Squishy, nebulous shapes that owe something to the millennial blob aesthetic feature throughout. Oversize cutouts of droplets dribble down the wall, their proximity to Yasknyk’s bodily wall hangings suggesting they might be blood, tears, snot, or some other bodily fluid.
Transformer is an itsy-bitsy space, and every square inch of real estate has been utilized here. Crisscrossing purple lines creep around the gallery walls like neural networks or knotted threads, framing individual pieces on the walls. These are hung at all levels, from way up nearly in the rafters all the way down to inches from the floor. Tables in the front window and middle of the gallery are crammed with as many tchotchkes as possible, and sculptures take up as much floor space as they can without being a tripping hazard. Even the ceiling hasn’t gone to waste, where an animation of a finger that squiggles and crawls around like a worm is projected overhead.
Sticky Entanglements runs through June 17 at Transformer. transformerdc.org. Free.