New York–based Canadian artist Elaine Cameron-Weir creates sculptures that combine peculiar natural elements—e.g., mica, frankincense, and clamshells—with industrially made objects to evoke rich cultural histories and myths. In her recent show “snake with sexual interest in its own tail,” eleven works (all 2016) sprawled sparsely across Venus’s fourteen-thousand-square-foot Los Angeles warehouse space, taking the viewer on an odyssey of taciturn storytelling, longing, and desire. Almost all the pieces had formal counterparts also on view, recalling one of the origin-of-love tales told in Plato’s Symposium: Aristophanes, soon to be bested in the contest by Socrates, claims that Zeus split our four-legged ancestors in two, dooming each human soul to a lifetime of searching for its other half.
At the entrance to the gallery viewers encountered Threshold 1, Threshold 2, and Threshold 3, a trio of sculptural pairs, somewhat reminiscent of Keith Sonnier’s work, attached vertically to a curved white adobe wall erected for the show. Each of the two pieces in these pairs features a medical-grade stainless-steel rod, an electrical cord, a squiggle of light-blue neon, and an oil-burning candle dispersing the heady scent of frankincense from atop a small mica sheet. Frankincense is considered a calming scent in aromatherapy, while mica serves a similar purpose in crystal healing. Below the candle, more frankincense sits on a silver plate resting in one half of a clamshell; the shell’s other half is in the adjacent piece. The flickering glow of the candle is doubled in a rearview mirror taken from a motorcycle. When one looks closely at the sculpture, one’s reflection peers back, inviting further rumination on singles and pairs.
The temporary wall curved gently into the main gallery space, where three fourteen-foot-long mesh sculptures covered with large copper scales—Snake Piece 1, Snake Piece 2, and Snake Piece 3—cascaded down from the ceiling to the floor. Two subsequent sculptures from the same series were suspended on the other side of the room. Resembling giant molted snake skins, the five works allude (especially in light of the show’s title) to the ouroboros, a serpent devouring its own tail, an ancient symbol of continuity, regeneration, and renewal.
Continuing the doubling theme were two tabular sculptures, each titled Sentry Tactical Like Prey with Evolutionary Eyes of a Predator on the Wing, that incorporate elements similar to those in the “Threshold” works attached to a slab of terrazzo stone resting horizontally on a metal tank. The individual terrazzo tabletops are shaped like single butterfly wings. Placed at the far ends of the gallery, a long stroll apart from each other, the two sculptures conveyed a sense of mutual incompleteness, a severed wholeness.
Another work, Metaphor, proved Cameron-Weir’s mastery in orchestrating found objects to haunting effect. A hydrotherapy tub—uncannily resembling a butterfly—is filled with gritty sand instead of the usual bubbling, comforting water. At the center, a crude jacket made from lead and barbed wire, evoking a ghostly patient, is chained across the tub as if in a torture device. This was the only work in the show without a double. It was up to viewers to decide whether its singularity accounted for its ominous nature.