Vox Populi reflects with sunsets, mythology, cabin fever and more

At the Vox Populi collective, the space is, as often, split amongst four artists and consequently, a variety of styles and mediums. The current exhibits at this Knight Arts grantee consist of work by Jay Muhlin, Maria Dumlao, Erica Prince and Leigh Van Duzer. On each end of the spectrum are Muhlin and Dumlao, who present black-and-white photos and video/projected works respectively. The others take up the middle ground with two- and three-dimensional works that are personally reflective (Prince’s “To Sit Rather Than Slip In”) and mythical (Van Duzer’s “Two by Two”).

Jay Muhlin, from “Sleeve On My Heart.” Image courtesy

Muhlin’s photographs are at first glance quite conservative – unsaturated and almost documentary-like. But similar to a Lynch film whose premise at first seems tame or tangible, after a bit of inspection the images begin to lose touch with the stable and concrete. Black cats brushing power outlets, discarded Christmas trees aside lights of mysterious origin, and mounted animal heads all offer glimpses into a world that is simultaneously benign and bizarre.

Jay Muhlin, from "Sleeve On My Heart." Image courtesy

Jay Muhlin, from “Sleeve On My Heart.” Image courtesy

A February 2014 calendar with roses similar to an actual vase in the center of the room invokes the present moment, as the images seem to capture the cabin fever and malaise of an icy, hostile winter. Beneath the glass vase, there rests a short poem peeking out on a slip of paper. The words speak of opposites and, paradoxically, wordlessness. They are trapped inside their own stanzas much like each of us is trapped within our own skin.

Maria Dumlao, front view of morphing sunsets from "Expanded Earthly Worlds."

Maria Dumlao, front view of morphing sunsets from “Expanded Earthly Worlds.”

Cue Dumlao’s trippy and melodramatic moving images to counter Muhlin’s surreal ennui. In “Expanded Earthly World,” Dumlao apparently tries to capture the breadth of majestic (and at times kitschy) landscape photography in the span of a gallery visit. On the front wall is a morphing menagerie of sunset photos and scenery that melt in and out of one another like an acid trip on a beach.

Maria Dumlao, view from the rear of "Expanded Earthly Worlds" with dual projectors.

Maria Dumlao, view from the rear of “Expanded Earthly Worlds” with dual projectors.

To the rear, a pair of slide projectors take turns swapping the bottom and top of the horizon as long, empty roads and sunflower fields expand to everywhere and nowhere at once. Dumlao’s work is colorful, amusing and eccentric, and offers insight into how the stereotypically beautiful butts up against the obnoxiously cliché in an aesthetic asymptote.

Erica Prince, "Slip In."

Erica Prince, “Slip In.”

Erica Prince is heavily focused on the circle, and almost every work includes this symbol of continuity in full or in part. The objects and images she garners seem deeply personal, and grasp for meaning amidst images of pills, sex, femininity and spirituality. Everything here seems incomplete and on the verge of a revelation, but intentionally stops short leaving a rush of desire in its wake.

Erica Prince, "Sit."

Erica Prince, “Sit.”

An inflated exercise ball dips down into a tall, transparent container of water (actually lubricant), seemingly attempting to drink or fill itself (or fit in). This action bestows it with life and longing, although its instability perched atop the glass distracts from its humble nature in lieu of anxiety. Across the room, an actual living creature – a houseplant – rises up from a white ceramic pot. Below it, the arch of a pink semicircle of fabric fans out with a rectangular cushion before it. While the viewer could easily take a seat on the pillow, the plant cannot. It remains immobile, yet unable to find repose, reduced to an object of attention and speculation.

Leigh Van Duzer, "Covenant."

Leigh Van Duzer, “Covenant.”

Unsurprisingly, “Two by Two” by Leigh Van Duzer draws on the story of Noah and his legendary ark. From the perspective of someone raised outside of religion, the myth is great fodder for architectural, zoological and spiritual intrigue, and Van Duzer concocts structural examinations of the ark and its likenesses, as well as a parade of silhouetted animals in pairs, and even representations of the mystical covenant itself. Her 3D printed model of a ship gargantuan enough to house these creatures is actually quite small, but its myriad windows hint at just how massive the real thing would need to be.

All four shows will be on display at Vox Populi through March 2.

Vox Populi is located at 319 North 11th St., 3rd floor, Philadelphia; [email protected]