Birds of Appetite: Alchemy & Apparition................

Tasha Ostrander + Izumi Yokoyama

Birds of Appetite: Alchemy & Apparition presents work by Izumi Yokoyama and Tasha Ostrander. Yokoyama’s pen & ink drawings and installation and Ostrander’s digital Light Jet prints are drawn from stand-alone series by each artist. Yet their selections for this collaborative project are based upon shared concerns that converge in common themes. Those themes—palpable, stark, and magical—infuse the congruent motifs and visions that animate Birds of Appetite at the same time as convey their unique and personal routes to that congruence.

The common themes in the works of Yokoyama and Ostrander in Birds of Appetite are nature and transformation. Nature embraces all life forms and all environs. It is at once the matrix of matter and dynamic crucible of all change—transformation. It is the locus of the quick and the dead.

The scavenger birds that serve as the foil for Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s introduction to Zen is a metaphor as well for Birds of Appetite: Alchemy & Apparition. Proceeding from very different perspectives, the imagery of each artist quietly subverts the immediate and palpable perception that “life and death are two” with a vision of nature as the denouement of life with death, the transformation of matter—an alchemy of the spirit.

Tasha Ostrander pursues this vision in her Chemical Spirit series of landscapes and portraits: “As an artist, I find source materials and content in our environmental surroundings, looking for the border where harmony and disruption meet, and where we can offer remedy to imbalance. In the Chemical Spirit Landscape series I have visually layered an oily and 

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pervasive substance upon the landscape to alter the appearance, symbolizing an invasive spirit or stain that co- exists with wild environments”

Izumi Yokoyama’s Mugen – Infinitude and Dreamer on the Mesa series shares this fundamental role of nature as a crucible of matter. Her intricate ink pen drawings in both series represent significant and transformative phases in life. As a Japanese artist living in Taos, the aesthetic ties of her work to the metaphor of Zen and the birds of appetite are informed as well by her cultural context: "At the Hiroshima peace memorial, I saw the black rained walls and clothes. Since I was a child, I was intrigued and obsessed by black rain. I am connecting the line to the empty holes of stars in the night sky as the lines are falling from the holes...”.

While the term “magic realism” denotes a Surrealist offshoot from the 1940s featuring the insertion of fantastic elements in ‘factual’ Latin American literature, it aptly describes the art of both artists here where their probing of the sensible world through surreal, dreamlike depiction yields profound insights into modern life—fragile mythic narratives of discontinuity and harmony.

What makes Birds of Appetite so engaging is the sheer beauty of the imagery by Yokoyama and Ostrander. What makes it so potent is their capacity to imbue those images with compelling visual conceits on nature and transformation.

- Dr. Richard Tobin, Guest Curator, The Hardwood Museum, Taos, New Mexico, 2019



"Deer Self sees the world through a language that has more to say then can be spoken. We hear with our eyes images of inexhaustible meaning. On the Via Dolorosa, landscapes of grace reveal inscapes of disgrace. In deed we are the world we are destroying, we are becoming our environment of pain. What we do is who we are...shame, shame".  - Godfrey Reggio, film maker, 2006 






"Tasha Ostrander is showing Powder, another ambitious installation project. Several projected, photographed and constructed elements coalesce around the theme of black powder, agent of destruction,but also -- and explicitly--of magic and explosive possibility. Many installations fail because they rely on intellect, and theory for success. Ostrander allows plenty of conceptualizing but never loses a core, earthy and emotional root.

-- Zane Fischer, The Santa Fe Reporter, 2005 



"Tasha's Ostrander's mixed-media installation implied a variety of fragmented narratives. The interlock of the three simultaneously playing videos, with the five or six large portraits of a deers head in simple wood frames strewn at overlapping angles on the gallery floor, conjured all sorts of speculative stories. 

To enter the space you pushed aside a black curtain at the top of a short ramp. On the right wall a screen played an extreme close up of lips endlessly blowing across the top of a super-saturated yellow flower. Countering this was another screen of the same size showing a mans hand firing a pistol over and over again. Between these the back wall was covered with a slowly pulsating forest by way of video projection.

Ostrander used the darkened room to create a place of ritual storytelling about time, living, dying, and healing--raising fascinating possibilities for how the cinematic constructs meaning. Her beautifully expanded moments blur the boundaries between stillness and motion, between nature and culture. By stunningly mixing the sculptural and the videotic in the viewers real time, Ostrander  provides the elements for expanded meditations along a profusion of lines. Her ritual is one of pollination, of spreading ashes, of sewing seeds, as story telling of a new story, or of telling the old ones more truthfully. --Jon Carver,  THE Magazine, 2005



THE EYE'S GARDENER............................


Through the layering of imagery, Tasha Ostrander creates an intricate, enigmatic and intimate psychological portrait of her subject. We enter the protagonists psyche by way of the eye and begin to see the world as if through this camera eye. Ostrander describes the eye as " the threshold between one reality and the next, between the present and the past and all the imagination that goes goes on in between." Immersed in this threshold , we experience the meandering thoughts and perceptions of the protagonist, and try to sort through these visual images as if making our way through the tangled underbrush of an unkempt garden. The narrative of  The Eye's Gardener, when it can be discerned at all, is anticlimactic, consisting of mundane activities such as the trimming of plants in a garden. It is the beautiful imagery - of the eye, flowers, trees, butterflies -- and the poetic sequencing and montaging that most capture the imagination. The mostly black- and- white imagery ultimately undergoes  distortions like film melting away under extreme heat. The strident tones of the accompanying music, by Giya Kanchelli and Ostrander herself, add to the tempo and disorienting effects of the video and even introduce a sense of HItchcockian anxiety.        -Laura Addison, curator of contemporary art, Fine Arts Museum of New Mexico, 2005



QUINTER'S THOUGHT TRAP................................... 


 Tasha Ostrander's work operates in the lambent place between the organic and the inorganic. By offering contrast between mechanical, epistemological, and biological systems, the artist engages the participant directly in Foucault's  archeological space. Quinter's Thought Trap is Otrander's latest exploration of how cognitive processes are created by, but also determine, our world, how knowledge is inevitably complicit in securing our sense os self in a consistently shifting universe. 

Quinter's Thought Trap consists of several elements: metal boxes with butterfly specimens turning at several speeds; a series of large Iris prints of butterfly specimens seen through their glassine covers, two desks with, respectively, glassine covered forms and brass name-plates for specimens.

The participant can enter Quinter's mind through any four distinct thought processes, each of which is made manifest as an object. The four "thoughts" refer to one another in such a way as to keep the processes moving endlessly and obsessively. The processes themselves are linear but the recursive nature of the "mind" makes an exit from the system impossible.Ostrander refers to this frustration a 'obsolete progress'. The notion of progress implies a moving forward, progressing toward a goal, but the nature of progress is never to be satisfied, to be in a constant state of desire. There is nowhere to go and in that frustration, perhaps, lies the failure  of Modernism. The artist deepens the play by requiring the participant herself to analyze, decipher, and categorize the material.   
Exerp from the "Quinter's Thought Trap" catalogue, Aline Brandauer, curator of contemporary art, New Mexico Museum of Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM, 1997




SEVENTY-THREE  IN A MOMENT.............................


Ostrander's Seventy-three in a Moment is Process art: The artist cut out, strained, and mounted the 21 rings of  26,645 paper butterflies that comprise her round mandala representing all the days of an average life span. It is Conceptual art at it's best: The idea concealed beneath the process is profound and compelling, yet it's import is conveyed to the viewer by the work alone, apart from explicit recourse to an explanatory text. But beyond its appeal as vital material process and primary form, Ostrander's image operates at a level of poetic feeling where emotion and intellect are inseparably engaged--"There,"as Hesse put it, "is where art and life come together."    -Richard Tobin, THE Magazine, 1996