Built with Indexhibit
Call to Fire, solo exhibition at Pio Pico in Los Angeles, 2020
Call To Fire features four colored pencil drawings and an animatronic sculpture by Isabel Theselius. The drawings build on myths around a diner, lounge, and bowling alley called The Red Mill that was owned by Theselius husband's great grandparents in Detroit, Michigan through the 1950s and 60s. Having a fascination with fire Theselius grew an interest for the diner after learning that it burned down twice under shadowy circumstances. Through photographs and postcards of the interior, collected by her husband's family and memorabilia found online, Theselius has recreated images inspired by the diner as the fire begins. The drawings dive into ideas of a mythic American past during the post-war boom years and the realities of loss and repeated tragedy with more sinister undertones of mounting civil unrest and the Detroit Riots in 1967 (evidently, The Red Mill burned to the ground during the riots) and broader political landscape of the period. Theselius is not interested in the true causes of the fires, she is rather, interested in sustaining and adding new narratives into those myths.
Combined with the drawings is the piece “No, no, no” featuring a hyperrealistic silicone cast of Theselius’ hand clenching a fist with the index finger pointed up. The cast is mounted on a wooden plinth. Imbedded in the sculpture is a motorized system and computer board programed to move the index finger back and forth as if to rebuke someone. The slow movement of the hand’s motion and the classic red painted nails creates an attraction, and temptation to do exactly what the hand is telling you not to do. In this scenario, where the hand is combined with the drawings of burning interiors, the temptation is the fire.
In past projects Theselius has elaborated on her visions and daydreams/nightmares about pyromania. The fear of raising a child that against her will would become a pyromaniac or engage in other non desirable activities has haunted Theselius since she learned of her pregnancy. “No, no, no” stems from Theselius gradual acceptance of her new role as a mother and having to set boundaries as a figure of authority. The sculpture, was also conceived during the time of the ‘Me Too’ movement, thus it reflects a societal shift demanding accountability for women’s cultural and systematic oppression that is not only becoming more accepted but encouraged and even demanded.