Beware the ides of March. It was a mere five months ago, in the middle of March 2020, when artist Mary Little put the finishing touches on her exhibition Reflections at the Los Angeles gallery of Estudio Persona, the design workshop founded by Emiliana Gonzalez and Jessie Young. A few days later, the exhibition was canceled, the showroom shuttered, and the world turned upside down. Thanks, COVID.
Happily, the show is now being resurrected, albeit as a digital exhibition that runs from August 15 to October 15, 2020. Represented by evocative installation views, accompanied by close-up images of the individual works, the digital exhibition manages to capture at least some of the nuanced rapport between Little’s poetic canvas artworks and the minimalist eloquence of Estudio Persona’s showroom.
“It’s a very tranquil space, bathed in natural light from above, with beautiful polished concrete floors and plaster walls. I selected works I’ve done from the past four years that reflect the serenity of that environment,” Little says, explaining her selection process for the nine works on view. “I chose pieces that are sympathetic to the space—and the refined, sculptural quality of Estudio Persona’s designs—as well as sympathetic to each other,” Little adds.
Born in Northern Ireland, the L.A.-based artist has long incorporated references in her work to the idyllic Irish countryside where she spent her early childhood years, before a traumatic shift brought her and her family to the gritty streets of Belfast. One of the pieces in the exhibition, Islandmagee, a triptych of striated canvases with tumescent protrusions, is named for the peninsula where Little’s mother was raised. Another piece, Killyvolgan, the most dramatically articulated work in the show, was named for the farm where her father was born.
“Every piece in the exhibition has some connection to the places and people I knew during those tranquil years living in the country,” the artist says, adding emphatically, “I absolutely do not reference the Belfast years, which were dreary and gray and blighted by violence and danger.”
Over the course of many years of experimentation, Little has distilled her materials palette to one: raw, heavyweight artists’ canvas, naturally colored in an ivory tone. From a fabrication perspective, the material is well suited to the variegated shapes and forms the artist achieves by meticulous cutting and sewing. “It has a soft, three-dimensional quality and a kind of gentleness,” Little says. “I do many trials with small pieces of cloth to see how I can manipulate the material to conform to the idea. I also factor in the effect of gravity, how the piece hangs. There’s an element of serendipity in the process. Ultimately, I’m most interested in the formal, sculptural qualities of the work—how they respond to questions of scale and proportion,” she notes.
Twenty percent of every sale from the exhibition will go to the “I Have A Dream” Foundation of Los Angeles, a not-for-profit that supports underserved youth in their pursuit of higher education. It’s an eminently timely mission in the era of Black Lives Matter, just as the meditative Reflections presentation resonates with particular urgency in this turbulent moment of pandemic. Just think of the classic Diana Ross and the Supremes song: “Reflections of / The way life used to be…”