This show’s title alludes to a Doors song, which itself quotes James Frazer’s turn-of-the-20th-century study of religion and myth, The Golden Bough. If you didn’t expect Heidi Norton’s new sculptures and photographs to have a trippy, hippie vibe, what are you smoking?
Norton embeds cacti and succulents in cast glass or layers of colorful wax, where they cling to life with varying degrees of success. That’s the point, according to After the Fires of a Little Sun (pictured), her wonderful collaboration with Chicago curator Karsten Lund. The duo invites visitors to page through books about nature, color, art and ritual, which they’ve embellished with plants, Norton’s photographs and Lund’s texts. “What comes to life is the aspect of sculpture in a state of continual change,” he writes in a Joseph Beuys book, adding, “…there’s a certain energy to be found in the process of decay.”
Entropy’s at work even in Norton’s photos. Some of the plants captured in these images have already died, and the artist’s constructed tableaus seem to transcend the laws of physics. In My Dieffenbachia Plant with Tarp (Protection), light spills from behind a translucent plastic shroud partly covering plants and shelves. It’s impossible to determine which side of the tarp some of these objects fall on, much less which surfaces support them.
The glass sheets in Norton’s sculptures also play with our expectations of flatness versus three-dimensionality. Stare at them long enough, dude, and her interests in perception and psychedelia become clear.