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Mark Housley
When He Takes Me in his Arms

The Pansy Rises


The Light above the Bed
Fragile Monuments
by Eve Wood

Mark Housley, "Monuments of Spent Desire," Dec. 5, 2002-Jan. 31, 2003, at the Advocate Gallery, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles, Ca. 90038.

The works of artist Mark Housley testify to the unwitting desire to live purely and quietly inside a difficult emotional landscape.

Housley, who is in his 30s, has been known among Los Angeles art cognoscenti for over a decade now, and his new exhibition certainly solidifies his presence on the L.A. art scene. Aptly titled "Monuments of Spent Desire," the exhibition showcases an array of intensely realized images that center on the "big themes" of life: loss, desire, longing, death and a conflation of other difficult emotions.

The strongest piece in the show, When He Takes Me In His Arms, is a large sculptural diptych made from cast wax prescription bottles, encaustic, and oil on canvas. Housley has created a giant medicine cabinet for the ailing heart. The shelves built into the canvas sport an array of sad and wayward bottles, grossly and sloppily painted, none with recognizable labels or insignias. On some of the bottles are cryptic little messages and child-like pictures of birds. The left side of the diptych is painted white and the right side a thick, suffocating red. This piece is startling in its directness and speaks to issues of loss, ambivalence and addiction.

Housley is at his best when quiet and direct in his sentiments. In his painting The Moth's Wings Burnt, Housley gives us vibrant roses that seem almost to break their necks with weeping. On the left side of the frame, Housley paints an emblematic flame across a lavender background, creating a tension between the feminine and the masculine, the impulse towards violence and the desire for calm.

Also of interest are his wall sculptures of pained and dilapidated pansies, oddly heartbreaking in their simplicity. They hang. They drape. They push forward, roots and all into life. Housley's work is modestly priced, beginning at $300 for a small wall sculpture up to $6,000 for a large canvas.

EVE WOOD has a book of poetry, Love's Funeral, coming out from Cherry Grove Collections at the University of Cincinnati.