Deep inside the lush, hairy forest that artist Mandy Greer built, a black pelican vomits white. Pounds of messy white crocheting, dotted with pearly beads, rush from the back of the bird's throat like a waterfall, flowing onto the floor and pooling around the bird. In the room next door, a white buck with pearl- encrusted antlers oozes red-beaded crocheting from a vaginal gash in its side. The red material is lumpy and organlike, spooling out of the animal to form a huge chandelier.
The animals are both male and female, poised between life and death. Are they hemorrhaging or orgasming? Is this post-Freudian narrative or crafty decoration? It's classic Greer territory, a land of "atypical archetypes," as former Stranger art critic Emily Hall once eloquently put it.
The black pelican installation, called Dare alla Luce ("Into the Light"), is new and the largest piece Greer has ever made. Bellevue Arts Museum generously commissioned it as the centerpiece for Greer's solo show. The museum also published a valuable catalog. My only complaint is not in the curation, by Stefano Catalani, but in the decision to allot the show less room in order to make space for another display (installed in such an awful clutter by BAM director Michael Monroe that it makes the artist, Anna Skibska, look bad).
Greer based Dare alla Luce on a Tintoretto painting of the goddess Juno lactating explosively—which, according to myth, created the sparkling Milky Way. Also at BAM are the viscera- trailing deer (first seen at Bumbershoot in 2006), a handful of earlier freestanding sculptures (including a plush toy dog with a marble hidden in its bead-encrusted anus), and a video of the artist performing a parable of transformation that includes elements of silent film, fairy tale, and striptease.
Greer uses prettiness as a foil for disturbing subjects, but sometimes her stuff is too pretty. The best corners of Dare alla Luce are swamplike, created by the sagginess and hairiness that comes from her deliberate lack of expertise as knitter, beader, and crocheter. For the first time, Greer summons you inside her soft creations as if they formed a wom≠≠≠≠b. The effect is magical, dark, and transporting, but I wish it were just a little more humid—that the air was just a little thicker in there.