Dividing the room nearly in half, a huge crimson bird stretches out wings made of bank notes. Faces peer out, stippled portraits of authority on what’s left of the currency, which has been trimmed into smaller birds that make up the whole. Streamers of red thread run from the top of the sculpture to the floor, where the spools rest.
All of the works at Toomey Tourell’s show in transit display this readily apparent playfulness. From the hallway outside of the gallery the blinding yellow of a lifejacket and a lace-thin arm of veins call out to be examined further. When you do, you’re struck by the morbidity of the subject matter, which still later reveals itself to be, in actuality, the work of an artist grappling with tragedy: grappling with it, ruminating upon it, sneering at its absurdity and plundering it to create beauty where it seemingly has no business being found.
The starting point for Lyndi Sales work in the exhibit is a plane crash that took the lives of all 159 passengers, including her father’s. Flight 295 proved not just an unfortunate accident: suspicions linger that the disaster was assured by the existence of contraband materials being smuggled into what was then still apartheid-era South Africa.
But what finds its way to the gallery walls? The aforementioned life vest, trimmed like a stencil to reveal the shape of lungs. There are heads of coral and blooms of bronchioles, either of which could be flipped to represent the other. Travel safety cards have been sliced into ribbons of airplane trajectories, as if vapor trails left tangible residue like a spider’s web to be delicately preserved (also reminding me of Amanda Hughen and Jennifer Starkweather’s Airport Project series). The connections are almost dreamlike associations, if sharp edged. Even after the sad origin of the works is revealed, the playfulness remains.