Art Commentary: Andrea Cote, “Body of Evidence”

Andrea Cote is one of those special artists who is a filmmaker, sculptor, choreographer, photographer and performance artist: a creative individual with skill and provocative ideas. As far as we know, she never stops working on new projects at home or elsewhere. To categorize Cote would be nonsense, but if we must, we’d say she was a conceptual artist in a locale (the East End) where such people are few and far between. But that doesn’t stop Cote.

We remember first seeing her in a performance piece at Riverhead’s Art Sites: coming down a hill, wrapped in a large piece of cloth that she molded in different configurations to both entrap and free her head with her long hair (shown at the Pollock Krasner House’s film series, Artists Make Movies) were equally engaging.

Most of Cote’s body of work concerns her actual body (and thus the present exhibit’s title, “Body of Evidence.”) While such an expression is certainly a pun, her endeavors are not smug or overly clever as some puns are. Because this emphasis on the body is serious we began to wonder what Cote’s real purpose was. The answer is probably obvious: to explore the artist’s own identity.

What is equally fascinating are the paths this exploration takes and the varied aspects of Cote’s self-image. First, we start with striking works on paper of her prone body intertwined with her long, luxurious hair. While the patterns evoked by the hair are arresting examples of Abstract Expressionism, we look beyond this observation to find the metaphor. Consider that hair can have contradictory meanings: no doubt, it gave Samson power and then no power at all when Delilah cut it off. Hair can also be seductive in some cultures and rejected in others where women must cover their heads.

It’s hard to say which interpretation, if any, Cote accepts about her own identity. It may be that hair for her is merely a malleable material that can be made into different shapes. No matter. Cote respects the texture that hair brings to her art.

Her digital prints use another medium to explore identity, as a woman progresses into insanity through her facial expressions. Small paper dolls made from old photographs suggest a subtle, yet similar, digression into a more primitive state.

A particularly evocative work is Cote’s sculptural paintings, where she has produced casts of body parts to create fragmentation. Ears are a focus, reminding this critic of the severed ear in the film, Blue Velvet. Other works called “Body Print Mandalas” are rubber casts of Cote’s body inked and pressed to mylar. We are curious to determine which part predominates.

Thus, motifs begin to emerge from these pieces, perhaps giving us an idea of Cote’s sense of self: contradictions about power and strength; segmentation of the body; a primitive view of the human being.

 

“Body of Evidence” will be on view at The Anthony Giordano Gallery at Oakdale’s Dowling College until March 18, 2012. Call 631-244-3016 for information.

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