A Bravura Lenticular Approach to Homer’s the Odyssey
Keystone Gallery, Los Angeles
through June 20
Written by Genie Davis
With Heather Lowe’s brilliant It’s all L.A. to me…ruminations on the Odyssey, at Keystone Art Space through June 20th, the artist has created an immersive installation that includes her unique lenticulars, as well as a video from Growler’s Choir featuring the poem Dayking by Fortner Anderson, a friend of Lowe’s, who recites his own poem about Agamemnon. Also a part of the exhibition is an NFT anaglyph/sculpture/ 3D print created in collaboration with Marty Van Diest; Lowe’s gorgeous monoprints on cotton rag paper in teak hanging frames; and a mixed media hanging installation representing Penelope’s loom in the story.
The wide-ranging exhibition was a response to the pandemic, when Lowe spent much time alone, reading the Odyssey, once she rediscovered it, previously forgotten on a bookshelf in her home. It’s beauty, promise, and contemporary relatability all inspired her.
“The Greek Gods were human in that they were fallible, which I think is a very contemporary theme. When I made studies of the visual art from the early Archaic Greek art, I was searching for a kind of utopia. I looked directly at the art, not the critical historical writing about the art. The Archaic Greek art is extremely sophisticated and supremely natural — honest. One can look at Archaic Greek Art and learn much about the way people thought. In Homer’s Odyssey a stranger coming back from the sea was always met with respect and honored in their home. A person of honor was judged by their generosity of spirit.” She feels that thematically, these aspects of the book are just as important today as when Homer created the indelible tale.
Lowe says her choice to use a variety of different materials “happened organically. I wanted an immersive environment, with sound, movement and strong images. I had collected tons of images as I read through the Odyssey; Penelope kept surfacing in all my sketches and preparations. I wanted a lightness and delicacy, and I knew her loom had to be somewhere.” She adds “Demodokus (the blind poet) was also a pivotal force. He was there for the language and I wanted to show how the language/song from this epic poem continues to influence us today.”
The video element of the exhibition was a part of that. It came about after meeting a friend for lunch. “He mentioned his Dayking video work and I thought it would fit well with the show, with the poem being about Agamemnon. I liked the contrast of its aggressive sound, the sounds of breath and sea, which are present throughout the show.”
In short, tach of the works in Lowe’s show, regardless of the material in which they were created, are “interrelated like the story,” she says.
Overall, the iconic architecture and landscape of LA represent a contemporary setting for the artwork, but Lowe notes “It’s also about language. The picture [of the Greek Theatre] could have been a red barn with the same name: ‘Greek Theatre.’ The words conjure up centuries of visual art, theatre, dance, and music. Now we have popular music in this [Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre] hall and a building crane in the background. It still resonates with the past.”
According to Lowe our culture in Los Angeles is “infused with Homer’s narrative — even in street names such as Temple, Arcadia, Cypress,” she relates. Among the places she depicted in or that inspired her series, she cites Griffith Park, 1st Street, Alameda, Temple, Arcadia St., Will Rogers Park, and very significantly for the artist, the Pacific Ocean. “Every time I read a part of Homer, the words would materialize around me, and I felt such a kinship with Greek thought. In a way, I was searching for a kind of Utopia and Homer helped me battle through the flak of L.A. to find beauty, to find my own home.”
Having lived in Los Angeles for over 33-years, the City of Angels was as important to Lowe, as it struggled to return to itself during the pandemic, as Odysseus’ return home, and his joy in that return, much as Lowe herself returned to the beauty of Los Angeles and a reawakening world.
Lowe focuses a great deal of her work thematically on specific characters from the Odyssey, loyal Penelope waiting for Odysseus, and Demoducus, the blind poet who may or may not be Homer’s stand-in, as the writer was also blind. Her other pervasive theme is one that creates “interactive associations” between the poem and Los Angeles in her lenticulars.
It is the nature of lenticular works to shift as one views them, so that one image reveals the goddess Circe, and with a tilt of the viewer’s head, becomes a Circe in the midst of Los Angeles traffic. Griffith Park trees mutate into symbolic Greek figures. The Pacific Ocean melds with a vision of Athena. A specific Los Angeles landscape is mutable to the eye as mountainous Peloponnese.
As one enters the exhibition, a series of 9 monoprints in rich browns, golds, and greens hang on the right wall, representing everything for a deer Lowe viewed at Will Rogers State Park to a detail from an artwork at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a tree in Griffith Park, and an old sketch of her own about Greece that fell from a textbook while she was working on the exhibition.
Moving into the center of the room and toward the left wall, there is a hung series of 12 panels titled “Twelve Maidens,” in which Odysseus takes revenge on maidens disloyal to Penelope. The maidens were hung, and Lowe found trees in the Cedar Grove of Griffith Park which she viewed as the maidens’ legs, depicted here. On a freestanding plinth, her piece “Portals” is particularly dazzling. Here a Griffith Park tree merges with a detail from a terra cotta plaque from 460 BC of “Odysseus return to Penelope.”
Other lenticulars include “Thetis,” a sea-nymph, a butterfly named after Demoducus combined with a statue of Homer “Paillio Demodocusis;” an image of Lowe’s niece Kelly flying a kite; and “Nestor’s Palace” reimagined on the Pacific Coast. There are 10 individual 12 x 12 pieces in all, each, in hand-molded frames that include materials take from local beaches and parks, several of which also glow in the dark.
Six larger lenticular works on plinths and pedestals depict scenes such as Odysseus as a young child – here, Lowe’s grandnephew, with Odysseus’s mother and father “passing by” in the background; the aforementioned Circe the temptress who turned Odysseus’s men to swine through drink, combined with the back of a truck – which resembled the goddess to Lowe as fire hydrants serve as stand-ins for the pigs.
These are clever, consuming, absorbing works that are individually like watching the flickering frames of a short film; collectively they are an epic one.
Perhaps most epic of all is the large-scale hanging installation of cord, lenticular, and mixed media referencing Penelope’s delaying tactic against persistent, impatient suitors, her desire to finish weaving her father-in-law’s woven shroud – which she then refused to complete. Of the curtain-like artwork, hung with mixed media objects at its ends, clinking like softly discordant chimes, Lowe says “the sounds are supposed to recall the sea, made from gypsum and painted with ink. I grew up by the ocean and my heart is there. The whole Odyssey takes place on the ocean and surrounding islands. Penelope was at home waiting on land for Odysseus to return. I imagine her listening to the sounds of the sea and weaving while she waits for him to return. The translucent elements of lenticular in tear drops hold her image and become integrated with the lines of the loom,” she explains.
Overall, Lowe’s work here is magical, gracious, and a deep dive into both Greek story and equally classic Los Angeles moments. And Lowe wouldn’t have it any other way. “Finding our ‘homeland’ is a personal journey,” she says.
Keystone Art Space
338 S Avenue 16, Los Angeles, 90031
For more information Lowe’s NFT/collaborative sculpture, visit in person to study the mysteriously alien golden form, and follow the link
The video work featuring Dayking by Fortner Anderson with Growler Choir can be viewed both at the exhibition and below.
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