The Individual in Multiplicity. The Work of Corinna Button

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by Sergio Gomez

To see and to understand are two very different things. One sees but one does not always understand what he sees. This is more evident in today’s rapid changing world with all its complexities of social interaction both on and off the screen. At one point in our lives, there was only one screen yet we did not have immediate interaction with it. That was our television set some 30 years ago. Almost every home had at least one and most of what we saw back then were stories being told one at a time. Although there may have been a mystery to a given story, it was easier to understand what we were seeing.

Fast-forward 30 years. Today we have many stories being told almost instantly and in multiple screens of all sizes. Not only stories are being told, but also fractions and semi-fractions of a story. Today’s stories are incomplete, open-ended and constantly evolving. In fact, we have the ability to interact instantly and even become a part of the story.

Has this new reality change the way we see and understand the world? One could take a close look at the work of artist Corinna Button whose career in recent years has been focused on observing human behavior in terms of how we deal with our persona both actual and implied. An educated painter, sculptor and print maker, Button delivers with mastery of medium, a visual narrative of our shared social experience.

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A single work by Corinna Button may be composed of one figure with multiple faces. Not in a grotesque or monstrous manner but rather in a beautiful and playful way, these single characters evoke an idea of multiple personalities within a person. The figures depicted on paper, canvas or as standing sculptures typically portray a female figure in glamorous facial expressions. The ceramic standing figures are elongated and graciously dressed with elaborated surfaces reminiscence of a fashion model or celebrity.

Are Button’s transient figures characters of the artist’s imagination or are they an attempt to understand the world? A world which increasingly becomes harder and harder to understand even with all the accumulated knowledge available at our fingertips. To decode Button’s work, one needs to observe life in the fast lane or in the never-ending race for more. People search for more social media friends, more followers, more interactions, more gadgets, more apps and more of everything else except for more quietness of mind.

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“I use dress shapes and human gestures inspired by images I’ve encountered in fashion media as my starting point  – I choose a specific texture, pattern or shape, that evokes a certain mood. I wrap them up with layers of shaped, embossed clay, then burrow into and carve away areas to bring in some light and to allow the viewer a glimpse into the interior.  Sometimes these structures grow beyond the costumed figure and become tower-like vessels, monuments or relics. They are manifestations of a number of different ideas about identity and stereotype.” Explains Button.

If Button’s vision is the result of an exercise to understand the world, we can discover in her work a sense of speed and motion as the dominant characteristics. Perhaps, similar to that of the futurist art movement of the early 20th century which emphasized speed, motion, technology and rapid change in society. However, Button’s work is focused on the personality(ies) of the individual which has become the main theme of our daily integration with the social media world.

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Button’s multi-face personalities pose and embrace the moment as if they are waiting for a “selfie” in every direction. They are not taken by surprised. Instead, they graciously move and take a stand. Such is the new reality and banality of the social media revolution that perhaps, to look at Button’s work is to look at ourselves in the mirror. And by doing so, we realize that although we are able to see more of the world at once, we are actually understanding less of it.

Sergio Gomez

Curator/Director of Exhbitions
Zhou B Art Center

Sergio Gomez is a visual artist, curator/Director of Exhibitions for the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, owner of 33 contemporary Gallery, founder of Art NXT Level Projects, educator and entrepreneur.

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