Visual artist Daphne Hill has the uncanny ability to take particularly disturbing subject matter and turn it into contemplative and beautiful visual art. Parasitic twins, Harod Immanuel Vashti HIV, and Chole E-coli are just a few titles of the works currently on display at Planet Rooth Design Haus in Hillcrest. As the titles suggest, these works graphically depict parasitic twins, the virus HIV, and the bacterium e-coli (as it would be seen under a microscope). Other titles include the words (seldom heard at art openings): Syphilis, Candida, HPV. Troubling subjects? Perhaps, but there's something thought provoking, enticing, educational, and sexy about these works. They invite you to draw close and at the same time, they remind you that getting too close can have nasty consequences.
At the soft-opening on January 15th, Hill explained the works, her motivations, the decisions to use some of the graphic imagery, and she gave me a tour of the show. If you missed the first openings, don't worry, you can still get a tour from the artist on the two remaining openings, Feb 5th, 7-10pm and Feb 25th, 7-10pm.
"I must make work about these things, attempting to make them more beautiful and palatable. If I don't, I feel that my mind may spin and spin and tangle in on itself with dread and worry," the artist explained.
The anxiety-producing, yet stunning, works that fill the Planet Rooth gallery space are dominated by the large, colorful, "Parasitic Twins", acrylic on canvas paintings. The work was created, in part, as an examination of what could go wrong during pregnancy-- in the hope that it does not go wrong.
"I want all the bad things that happen to be represented in my work and never manifest within us," She told me.
Perhaps my favorite works in the show are a clever sub-set included in Hill's Venereal Narratives series. Black silhouette of figures, typically one man and one woman, are placed in a mysterious background--sometimes a romantic setting, sometimes an abstract colorful setting. Once we are given the title, for example, Mark Chloe Chlamydia. We are forced to invent our own narrative of the depicted situation.
When I first encountered Daphne's work in her studio/gallery space in North Park, it provoked a very visceral and bizarre reaction in me-- that I think I will always remember. A building-wide opening was in progress, and as I wandered into her studio, I found myself confronting the demons of attraction and repulsion. I was drawn to a set of mixed-media collages starring 1950's calendar pin-up girls. I noticed they were sometimes partially obscured with with black, organic-looking designs. Upon closer inspection, these pieces also revealed little diagrams, diagrams of female reproductive organs like one would find at the local OBGYN, and as I came close enough to examine these diagrams, I also noticed the titles of the works.
I found myself wanting to reach out and touch the slick, resin-coated images, in part, to examine the cleanness of the resin-coating. I had my hand in mid-air, and then I saw the titles of the works. My hand, as if controlled by someone else, withdrew from the image and went immediately into my pocket. I just stood there captivated by the art work and its subject matter.
Venereal Narratives and Other Cautionary Tales is on display Planet Rooth Design Haus Jan 14-February 25
5th on 5th Community Art Walk, February 5th, 7-10pm
Closing Reception, February 25th, 7-10pm
Planet Rooth Design Haus
3334 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103