Vicky Skandarion | White Fur

“We are all filled with a longing for the wild. There are a few culturally sanctioned antidotes for this yearning. we are taught  to feel shame for such a desire. We grew our hair long and used to hide our feelings. But the shadow of Wild Woman still lurks behinds us during our days and in our nights. No matter where we are, the shadow that trots behind us is definitely four footed.”

“Clarissa Pinkola Estes,  “Women Who Run With the Wolves

Vicky Skandarion is exhibiting in Be’eri Gallery  paintings and sculptures created during the past two years. Skandarion works with brown diluted paint on white Formica laminate and Perspex sheets, smooth surfaced and nonabsorbent materials. Most of her work has an unplanned quality to it. She does not interfere with the dispersion, accumulation, flow and drying of the paint. In it she finds hints of shapes, figures and landscapes. Then, she extracts the image by marking on, adding to and wiping it off. The paint is diluted to the point of transparency, resembling watercolors. The dominating brown palette is that of earth, nature, and the human body.

Her work process is a dialog with the subconscious, much like a Rorschach test forcing the viewers to confront their own suppressed thoughts, passions and memories. A world of fantastic images emerges from the textures and blotches of paint, a reflection of the artists psyche. A central and recurrent figure in her work is that of a woman-  large, feminine, nourishing, animal-like and wild. The myth of the mother goddess, creator of life, Mother Earth. Babies hang from her multiple breasts. In other paintings her body is formed out of a male figure, while carrying him on her back, carved in stone. The female figures are mythological archetypical women, rising from the earth, derived from the subconscious, Jungian archetypes, folk stories, dreams and mythologies. They emerge from an ancient primeval world.

Another figure that dominates her work is that of the wolf, an animal central to many cultures. Man’s best friend, the dog, is a domesticated wolf. Living in packs, social, territorial, loyal and devoted to its young. Often portrayed as a fierce predator, sometimes as a strong and law abiding creature, or friendly natured raising  orphaned children. Vicky’s wolves are in packs, attached to the woman’s body, intimidating, wooing, born from her or sheltered by her. The woman is always strong and dominant with a powerful presence.

The female figure in Skandarion’s work can be understood in the light of Carl Jung’s archetypal theory. Archetypes are recurring figures in human culture. Jung named three particularly notable motifs, amongst them The Shadow- representing ones dark side. It tends to consist predominantly of the primitive or negative human emotions and impulses. The shadow is most dangerous when repressed. Whatever we deem evil, inferior or unacceptable and deny in ourselves becomes part of the shadow. The shadow is a primordial part of our human inheritance, which, try as we might, can never be eluded. The wolf in Skandarion’s work represents the Jungian shadow archetype, the wild side of women. It also represents the animus archetype, the analogous image of the masculine that occurs in women. In the book “Running With the Wolves”, writer Clarissa Pinkola Estes urges us to trust our instincts, our inner strengths, our nature, the power of love within us and return to our roots, thus creating a new lexicon of the female psyche.

Skandarion’s women appear in different forms: a child on a tree laughing exposing sharp teeth, a woman giving birth to a wolf, standing on top of a rocky cliff pushing people off, buried beneath a mound of wolves with only her legs visible- a rape victim or a voluntary participant, a wolf-woman fighting a male figure. In the majority of her paintings the woman figure has a complex relationship with the wolf-  fighting it, dissolving into it, controlling it.

The sculptures installed in the gallery are made out of sponge gourd (also known as the luffa plant) which is used in Israel and the Mediterranean as a handy scrubber primarily for the body. The choice of material derives from the artists childhood memories of her father processing the sponge gourd so it can be sold for cleaning purposes. Using the luffa as sculpting material, she tears, rips and cuts it into small pieces with a kitchen knife. Then, she “heals” it by sowing the pieces back together with  a needle and thread. It is coated in wax and other materials such as white fur, symbolically covering it with armor, protecting the softness of its flesh. Some of her sculptures resemble living wounded flesh, others are genitals- male or female.

The luffa has an interesting structure. It is an organic material and very responsive to processing, especially when submerged in water. Its insides resemble an exposed nervous system or synaptic formation, vulnerable and sensitive, similar to the human body. It also resonates the obsessive scrubbing and cleaning of the body which can often be seen in sexual assault survivors, many of which Skandarion treated in her years as a social worker.

The  sculptures resemble an enticing fleshy flower. In closer look they reveal their vulnerability, severed limbs, a phallic piece of skin, male and female genitals combined. Their stringy structure is stuffed but also transparent, the fibers become hair, fur, from a different being. Skandarion’s sculptures, just as her paintings, exist in the space between the physical and the vegetal, the sensually seductive and the wounded, between male and female.

Dr. Ziva Yellin


More images from the exhibition