Enter a toy shop of childhood fantasy, fun and games! But look closely: what you think you see, may not be what you think.
Well-loved toys and plush animals gradually melt into a melancholy menagerie of misfits, displaying their busted and corroded wheels, sorrowful and broken faces, and worn-out and rusty exteriors. On display are the nostalgic elements of one’s youth –a toy box of whimsy, over-stuffed with humor and symbolism. Upon first glance, they are full of joyful memories. Upon closer look, they are aged and ragged, unmasking the gloomy overtones of childhood desolation.
Gina M.'s solo exhibition Through the Toy Shop and Behind the Curtain is a full-scale immersive space installation combining both whimsical, found-object assemblages and trompe l'oeil ceramics --which fool the unsuspecting eye. The exhibition is an ‘open toy chest’ of nostalgia, whimsical fun, and ironic humor that gently leads the viewer to a darker repository of coded narratives and thoughtful allegory, disguising the anguish and loneliness that is all too often a part of a child’s youth.
Her life-like sculptures are made of high-fired clay, oxide washes, encaustic paint, and found objects. Their homespun construction and textured surfaces simulate threadbare fabric, tattered fur, and the broken button- eyes of careworn and faded toys that ‘come to life’ in a toy store-full of mischievous characters, stuffed-animal oddities, and dented train sets. Her sculptural assemblages made of antique found objects and vintage collectables, become stand-alone, Jack-in-the-box-esque creatures, ‘Freak Show’ specimens, and marionette- theater figurines. Together these lovable minions combine to create a large-scale installation that tantalizes the senses, triggers memories of childhood, oftentimes along with subtly, painful trauma.
With a dewy-eyed innocence, Gina M. reasonably questions the concepts of adulthood and its repercussions. Her vocabulary of iconic childhood imagery exudes urgent warnings of the inevitable loss of one’s youthful innocence, in exchange for the advancement to ‘adulthood’. While on a wild journey of happy spectacle, and sorrowful memory, lies the resurrection and self-love of her metaphorical inner-child –and with this, perhaps even one’s own.
Gina M. comes from an unconventional creative family. In the 1970s, her parents owned a puppet theater in California where she spent weekends developing shows, building puppets, and hosting birthday parties for strangers’ children. As a lonely child, nurtured by puppets and their puppeteers, her connection to anthropomorphic forms began early. She was often found in the corner of the playground, twisting grass and twigs into small figures.
In college, she studied interior design and color theory with a focus on painted murals, trompe l'oeil (fool-the-eye), and faux finishes. For twenty years she had a successful artistic wall treatment business—a career that greatly influences her art.
Her work incorporates innocence and whimsy, drawing the viewer in like bait; upon closer inspection layers of meaning emerge. Using iconic images from childhood, Gina M. explores the lingering emotional residue of her youth and creates three-dimensional narratives to release it and channel it into personal development.
Her current body of work combines assemblage with ceramics. These trompe l'oeil sculptures are made of high-fired clay, oxide washes, encaustic paint, and found objects. Their homespun construction and textured surfaces simulate threadbare fabric, tattered fur, and the broken button eyes of careworn and faded toys.
She selects materials based on their authenticity to the process. Clay represents fragility, a relationship to the earth, and the tradition of arts and craft. Recycled materials such as wood and found objects
represent nostalgia and reference aging, decay and decomposition. Finally, encaustic wax and resins speak to her faux finish experience and love of historic art materials.
Gina M.’s work is exhibited throughout California. In October 2017, Gallery 825 hosted her solo show Midway. Two of her ceramic and assemblage pieces have received honorable mentions at the Ink & Clay 42 exhibit and at TAG gallery in the 2018 LA OPEN. El Camino college art gallery requested her work for inclusion in two group shows, Personal Matters and Mother and Child.
Gina M. is a member of Los Angeles Art Association and Pasadena Society of Artists. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California.