Teresa Audet’s work is framed by meditative acts of skilled labor required in functional building. She merges them with fragments of ordinary speech and translates those into more abstract and performative aesthetics, investing objects with the pleasure of their construction and cladding the gallery with symbols that verge on theater.
Audet’s curious co-mechanisms of hand-made objects, low-tech tools, psychology, and art history are transcribed onto a gratifying 3-dimensional scroll at Madison’s Art Lit Lab this month. Her kinetic document blithely titled “Squiggly On the Inside,” stems from crafting surrogates for mostly untranslatable sentiments the artist navigates in streams of consciousness. Audet weaves psychic fibers with real materials such as rattan, wood, metal, and fabric on a metaphoric ether while the viewer is charged with puzzling out their surreal toy-like vernacular.
Two wall pieces display Audet’s finesse with weaving and woodwork as she folds process and studio tradition onto symbols of personal experience and cosmographic imagination. The most vivid is a 33 ft. long spiral, titled “A Map,” constructed of dyed reed and wood. Its billowing profile portrays the path of the artist’s age braced by three hinges of stacked laminated maple. The map is an uncanny portrait, a soporific eye in the center and eyelashes at the top frayed in a permanent state of anticipation.
The centerpiece of her show, titled “Brain Circus” is a floor work made of a heavy rope circle whose 47 ft. circumference surrounds six variously sized robotic sculptures. Careworn objects simulate colloquial props from children’s fables, more Lewis Carroll than E.B. White. Shuffling continuously and enduring light collisions within their cabled border they unwittingly rearrange the flexible profile of their containment. Their juvenescent ballet calls to mind whimsical details of Alexander Calder’s beloved 1931 “Cirque Calder.”
Mischievous phrases lightly emblazon the robots, with anecdotal recollections about being, and being seen. These include the brutal “You’re not good enough,” and “Too close,” the banal “Drink more Water,” and “Fun is not optional,” the disingenuous “You’re OK,” and my favorite “Feelings aren’t facts.” Each establishes candid symbolic proportion regarding identity and the managing of irrepressible feelings. They also present a contradiction about assumptive meanings in text, images, and in therapy. Audet implies that individual perceptions are “squiggly” and can’t really be symbolically coded. They can, however, seed something new, perhaps just as real, that occupies and regulates its own plane. Art, for example.
The robotic “Brain Circus” and the exhibition’s adjacent work is, in theory, about thought – a Petri dish of emotions, texts, images and behavior, in constant transformation. It playfully demonstrates how words or sound/images are not only affected by grammar but by conditions such as pattern and motion and their relation to the body and to architecture. Audet evokes the spirit of folk art and the filter of creative outsiders that trade in unconventional perceptions, intimate readings, and ethnography in the Midwest. By tweaking their reclusive dialects with an advanced capacity for craft as well as a progressive art practice her biographical sketch is deftly balanced between domestic utility and nomadic vision.