Shana Robbins is the daughter of one of Halston’s models and a career model hersself. She is urbane, sophisticated, high cheek-boned and even has a mole more perfectly placed on her cheek than Cindy Crawford. By all appearances cooler than a cucumber.
During her performance, gallerist Guido Maus whispered in my ear, isn’t it mesmerizing?
Conceptually perhaps, but I think that is overintellectualizing. What we had on a raised platform at her opening night one and only performance of snakeandlace was nothing other than a wild woman with all the layers of societal pretense unmasked. And there I go, adding too many conceptual layers myself. A wild woman, just leave it at that.
And the audience was, in fact, left to take it or leave it, as Shana, draped in lace, whirled like a dervish and paid us no mind. And that was the point.
This three-hour endurance driven piece incorporates a 17-foot lace installation for which Robbins collaborated with the Shipibo women of the Peruvian Amazon. During her collaboration, Robbins learned the Shipibo women’s unique stitching and patterns that represent communion with healing forces within their handmade works of art. Elements of body movement are also incorporated in the performance in reaction to the sounds, scents, and patterns of her experience with the native people.
Shana Robbins is an Atlanta-based artist whose works address conditions of feminine power, natural phenomena, and cycles of life and death. Using a variety of media, she presents herself as a solitary and galvanizing figure, elaborately costumed and performing ritualized gestures in unique landscapes. Drawing on her own experiences as model and student of Butoh movement, and on numerous mythologies that link womanhood with the Earth and roles of conduit and healer, Robbins creates composite narratives of identity and transformation.
In describing her own intent:
Luce Irigaray describes the female body as space: “In short, woman has been represented as the space or place by and in which man can find a position and locate himself... ‘“She is space, place or home and consequently has none herself.” For me, recovering this lost space or place requires constructing roles and personas and “haunting” remote spaces with those ecofeminist characters within paintings, photographs, videos, and performance installations. This process involves camouflage; merging with or dissolving into the natural environment—at times becoming more like an animal or plant, as a way of intercepting lost power and destabilizing static notions of the natural realm and the “female” body.
The costumes and performance objects that I create (what I call supernatural conductors) involve handmade, antiquated things that were used in a former era, especially by women: objects that revolt against former inanimate, utilitarian, or decorative expectations and take on new hybrid powers or roles in the context of the work. I am also experimenting with using my body as a supernatural conductor, like a candle, a crystal, or a thurible, through ritualistic interactions with an atmosphere, a plant or tree, the air, the Earth. This process is a bodying forth of underlying intentions, emotions, and energies. It provides a voice or form of movement (activism) for the estranged nonhuman natural realism.
Shana’s art is pure performance. Even though she shines a variety of media, and even when she is not on the platform dancing to shaman tunes in the flesh, the photographs, paintings, fashion mannequin sculptures, are all about Shana’s performance, or at least that of her familiar.
Ronin, a painting inspired by her experience in the Amazon jungle with the Shipibo people, portrays the spiritual visions of the Cosmic Anaconda as it radiates and forms intricate patterns within Shipibo songs and visions.
Check out brief video clips of her three hour-long performance that recycled three times at www.bhamweekly.com.
The exhibition of her mixed media art is still on display at Beta Pictoris Gallery on 2nd Avenue North.