not there

PDX Gallery

604 NW 12th, 222-0063

N ot there, Malia Jensen's current show at PDX, is a continuation of the artist's metaphorical explorations involving animals, although in not there, the creatures are just that: conspicuously absent. What remains within the small confines of PDX are vestiges of absence and odes to both wildness and home.

The main gallery houses Jensen's sculpture, most of it pillowy, soft and subtly erotic. Condo refers to those pressboard and carpet kitty homes, although this condo has been stitched in a creamy, vanilla satin, and droops softly off the wall. Empty and dysfunctional, this symbol of domestic dwelling is useless except to gaze upon. Nearby, Double Kitty hangs equally deflated in bridesmaid pink, its cylindrical form designed for two. Its dual vacancy proposes further scenarios of abandonment.

Loveseat, Cushion, and Small Cushion are all chocolate-toned variations on the same theme--pillows destroyed, presumably by sharp claws, or as the artist suggests, "over-love." The cushions, meticulously crafted in the same shiny vinyl as the cat condos, are evocatively and stylistically abstracted. The frayed shreddings that dangle from the cushion are smooth, tidy, spaghetti-like straps, and the foam casing that protrudes is soft, fluffy velvet. These aren't trompe l'oeil recreations of junked-out furniture. Their overuse and collective history have been cleaned up and smoothed out like a nostalgic lucid dream or a memory drifting by just before a catnap.

In the second gallery Jensen presents a small series of photographs, digitally printed on rag paper for a saturated, dreamy effect. They are beach scenes from moonlit nights where the sky teeters on forest green. Cutting through the darkness, words luminously appear before ghostly human forms. Using long exposure and helpers with flashlights, Jensen evokes creatures known for their secrecy and mystical elusiveness: Shark, Bobcat, Fox, Swan. In the distant backgrounds, headlights and shooting stars create equally ephemeral streaks of illumination, possibly spelling out their own words in other languages.

Redundancy is the show's sole weakness--with such a small gallery space in which to present new sculpture, it was disappointing to see such closely related pieces presented with only slight variation. Forgiving that, not there is a seductive venture into comfort and absence. CHAS BOWIE