Questions are raised by Anne Drew Potter’s exhibition “Le Cirque de L’Armée Rouge,” among them, why she would allude to a red army. Is it a political reference or merely a witticism because most of the figures in the installation are unglazed terra-cotta and therefore red? But there’s no mystery behind the carnival reference, as visitors were greeted by a Ticket Seller figure and a bowl of paper tickets on a stand beside a pulled-back red curtain (all works 2009).
Beyond was the main event: atop a stepped platform stood an earthenware figure, painted white, with childlike proportions and a large head. The face is slightly broad and not gender-specific, though a pot belly—protruding beneath a dark-red cloth weskit with long tails on the otherwise naked figure—is interpreted as a pregnant belly when one notices the female pudendum. The figure’s arms are raised, palms facing forward and fingers spread, suggesting a religious gesture of praise and exaltation.
She stands before an audience of nearly 20 naked female children—the terra-cotta “red army”—seated on a pentagonal red cloth. Their faces have more than a family resemblance; they could be clones. However, the kids are utterly, fascinatingly individuated. Hairstyles range from ponytail to bald head, and facial features suggest a universal blending of races.
The children are held rapt by the figure on the steps, except for one who has fallen asleep and another who turns her back. Perhaps four or five in age, they display the natural and unselfconscious body postures of youth. One sits on her heels, hands clasped to her chest, mouth slightly ajar. Another leans forward, her hands grasping her ankles, soles together and knees out. They are a lively, squirming, believable group.
In an artist’s statement, Potter, who is based in Indiana and recently finished an artist’s residency in Montana, discloses two source ideas: the “red army” of displaced Sudanese boys Dave Eggers described in his 2007 novel What is the What, and her own conviction that women embody all aspects of human nature. But the installation also conveys the promise and peril of childhood experiences that shape each individual.
Photo: View of Anne Drew Potter’s exhibition “Le Cirque de L’Armée Rouge,” 2010; at Dubhe Carreño.