Shary Boyle tonight at Hammer: Visual collaborator with Will Oldham and Swan Lake
Shary Boyle at the Hammer Museum
By Casey Henry
No one has better appropriated the image of the chain-smoking single mother than Shary Boyle. Her expansive projections, featured with musical accompaniment by Dark Hand and Lamplight at the Hammer tonight, feature images of unnerving bestiality and near-mythical women both distorted and empowered. In Boyle's visual world, Woodland animals expel rainbow discharge into skipping arcs, and high school dropouts ride mythological creatures. Her 2004 book, Witness My Shame, features racy scenes of child sexuality, yet with a vomit-in-the-back-of-your-throat veracity that works without being overly sensational. You've possibly seen her work on the cover of Swan Lake's album Beast Moans, yet she's most recently perfecting her live action projections on tour with Will Oldham in a collaboration with Doug Paisley (Dark Hand). It's the kind of old-soul sort of music that begs to be illustrated by a subversive female narrator.
Boyle' also has a penchant for precious-looking antique ceramics with physical mutations and decapitated heads, so expect a Kara Walker-esque strain of innocent historical references with decidedly ominous overtones. Namely history involving jangly folk accompaniment, ambiguously monstrous young women, and all things frigidly victorian revised by Boyle as complex moral questions. Overall, the combination of her projections with Dark Hand's songs works so well that you wonder how they ever survived without each other. Expect a kind of Lewis Carrol update: presentations of girlish innocence too unsettling to be real and too insightful to be dismissed. - Casey Henry