Mary Engel’s object-covered sculptural dogs need no introduction. Her ceramic creatures now at Marcia Wood Gallery, not all of which are object-encrusted, probably do.
A “Kitten” (at left) completely formed from smaller kitten figures is a familiar conceptual move, akin to the wristwatch-covered pooch that is the latest in what has effectively become a “Watch Dog” series. However, to have a “Bunny” overlaid with imprinted images, not figurines, of additional rabbits, or a similar “Fido” covered with drawings of dogs, is a departure from standard operating procedure. The physical resemblance of these objects to a certain Asian devotional statue may not be coincidental.
The greatest surprises in this show come from the lyrical, art-history-filled wall pieces. These mixtures of 2-D and 3-D elements often blend the cosmic with the comic, as when the wolf imprinted in the foreground on the panel of “Pink Poodle” (below) appears to menace the figure of the fearless Scotch terrier, while birds and mythic creatures sprawl across the background like some impossible variation on the zodiac.
How a Catholic devotional medal and the angel of the Annunciation have found their way into the innocent menagerie of “Gemini,” I’ll leave for later investigation. Renaissance art adjacent to well-chosen tchotchkes, however, carries a new sense of poetic seriousness that is a welcome addition to Engel’s trademark playfulness.
Lest we forget, however, the wall pieces appear in a room dominated by “Priscilla,” a four-foot-tall object-covered rabbit full of sly innuendo and visual double entendre. Rather than spoil the fun, I’ll restrict myself to noting the miniature beaded purse, the Hollywood-sign charm bracelet, and the miniature bottle of Chivas Regal whisky, all of which should be taken more or less at face value. The rest you can discover for yourself, including the wry placement of a tin candy box bearing the picture of a young Queen Elizabeth the Second.