Visual Arts - Domestic Goddesses

Teresa Bramlette Reeves and Lillian Blades at Sandler Hudson

Teresa Bramlette Reeves takes something inconsequential, stupidly decorative, more than a little useless and fey — the doily — and explodes it to giant size in ink and gouache drawings on paper.

By making her doilies big, Bramlette Reeves makes them important, worth looking at, but in the process adds a little snicker, probing us to question what we value in art.

In a nutshell, we value big, important, provocative things — the kind of things that men, in the formula of art history, tend to make. And doilies? Well, we put our drinks on them.

And we know who makes those.

Bramlette Reeves' work at Sandler Hudson is like watching an artist fighting with herself, arguing over two very gendered forms of creativity: big paintings and puny little handicrafts. The doily also illustrates human creativity as a perpetually failed endeavor in which we strive to replicate the sublime harmony and symmetry of the natural world, but ultimately fail to replicate the perfection of a snowflake or a spider web.

Lillian Blades is another female artist interested in craft, gendered materials and bringing objects from the home into the space of the gallery. But while Bramlette is analytical and engaged with art history, form and gender, Blades is sentimental and easygoing. Her squares of vintage fabric that she arranges into similarly hued configurations suggest quilts composed of the significant material of a family's life, to which Blades has added household objects such as spoons and honey drippers and decorative tchotchkes. Her arrangement "Birthings II" organizes lime-green prints and blue-green paisleys and cotton fields of wildflowers into harmonious color arrangements.

In doing so, Blades valorizes the homey, the domestic and that sphere of the visually pleasing. Blades brings a feminine, even girly, touch to what has often been a male enterprise of Duchampian ready-mades and Robert Rauschenberg assemblages.

But unlike the feisty Bramlette, Blades isn't so much engaged in a contentious battle with art history and craft and what merits our interest versus what doesn't. Blades is just fine with celebrating the patterns of our bedspreads and our mama's hostess pajamas and suggesting, hey, they are worth gandering at on gallery walls too.

Teresa Bramlette Reeves: New Work and Lillian Blades: Birthings. Through Nov. 25. Sandler Hudson Gallery, 1009-A Marietta St. Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-817-3300. www.sandlerhudson.com.

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