Bridging endings and beginnings, rebirth connects infinite loops of materials, energies, and souls. The universality of the rebirth fantasy splinters into reincarnation, resurrection, subjective psychic rebirth, and collective rebirth prompted by shared conditions. If the nuances of rebirth are further splintered, opportunities for endings and regenerations abound, never without the promise of transcendence in the process. Framed as narcissistic fantasy of everlasting life or a journey repeated and revised until earthly desires dissolve, reincarnation serves narratives of specific past lives while underpinning archetypes across narratives.
Rebirths en masse could be brought on by circumstances of collective loss, near death experiences, or enough time and space for rigorous self-reflection. If measured and charted, the frequencies and durations or rebirths can render a shared context, a rhythm, a cycle, a pulse; each generation, each five to seven years of cell regeneration, birth years, calendar years, springs, new moons, new days. In a selection of works by Bri Williams, Elizabeth Englander, and Lauren Quin, Quickening probes the three artists’ generative, distinct, and luring conceptions of rebirth.
Lauren Quin’s oil paintings cannibalize their own knotted masses of iridescent flesh. Proposing rebirth as a transnational non-state, a threshold is breached with each waning and waxing of creation and destruction. Untethered lungs, angel wings, noses, spiders, and bats are repeatedly traced through the back of the canvas, revealing overlapping transferences on the face – built up and obscured through repetition. Akin to the wet process, the fixed result maintains a verb-like unfolding. For the layers of ever emerging tubes and tunnels, regeneration is a constant state.
Thinking generationally, Bri Williams considers a longer duration of rebirth in her sculptures assembled from domestic familial artifacts. Inherited objects form new articulations, poetically integrating the past with the present. The reprocessed memories problematize religious authority’s unresolved othering and power dynamics entrapped in identity. Often casting in soap, a medium that can sweat, melt, surround, and petrify an interior fixed position not unlike a traumatic memory, the artist preserves and decays charged momentos while sparking a conversation with absent ancestral bodies. Akin to shrine making and spellcasting, the remnants take on a power more than the sum of their parts; a wooden dresser bears the spiraling burn of a stove top while a candle grows like a mushroom working away at the restoration process.
Elizabeth Englander’s suite of crucifixions prefigure a resurrection of revisionary divine bodies. Metal skeletal forms poke beneath garment-pinned swimsuit materials in standard loud neons, stripes, and polka dot patterns. In a double bind of suffering and pleasure, the reimagined icons speak to a schism between body and soul. The tool of crucifixion, or cross, signifies the split where a material body with earthly (horizontal) needs intersects a vertically inclined transcendent soul. In Englander’s revitalized archetypes, the incarnate ‘God, our Father’ is atomically reimagined to encompass the complexities of bodies, gender, love, and the human condition.
— Marie Heilich