Aeqai Review: Anima and Animus

“Anima and Animus/Julia Oldham & Casey Riordan Millard,” Marta Hewett Gallery, through Nov. 11, 2017

October 29th, 2017 | Published in October 2017

You enter a different world when you walk into the Marta Hewett Gallery. The exhibition is “Anima and Animus/Julia Oldham & Casey Riordan Millard.” To navigate it, I needed to understand what anima and animus meant, yet another example of my spotty education. Gallerist Marta Hewett helped me there.

In an October 21, 2017, email, Hewett wrote:

Carl Jung describes the anima and animus as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, which transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of a man, this archetype, which exists as an idea common to all mankind, finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima. In the unconscious of a woman, it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.1

Julia Oldham, “Story Teller Wears the Crown”, 2017, scratch-board, 16” x 20”. Photo courtesy of Marta Hewett Gallery.

Despite the exhibition title, Hewett admits the focus is on animus. As for exploring anima don’t look here. As illustrators and storytellers, Oldham and Millard make women the lead characters in the short stories they tell in their representational works. (Each is represented by 20 works.) Oldham is fascinated with she wolves and the mythic she werewolves, and all of her scratchboard drawings and digital prints were done in 2017, making a coherent collection.

It’s quite a different case with Millard showing work dated from 1997 to 2016, which covers a range of subjects and styles, but it is her Shark Girl who stands out.

Casey Riordan Millard, “Shark Girl in Paradise”, 2013, mixed mediums, 14.75” x 10.5”. Photo courtesy of Marta Hewett Gallery.

Let me start with Oldham who, frankly, is easier to discuss. Oldham asks, “Why Are There No Great Female Werewolves?” in her article posted on on October 25, 2017. The artist points out that there is “a marked dearth of them (she werewolves) represented in literature and film.” 2 When she werewolves do appear, they are either hyper-sexualized humans or all wolf. There are practically no images of them transitioning.

Julia Oldham, “Werewolf in Winter”, 2017, digital print, ed.10, 30.5” x 24.5”. Photo courtesy of Marta Hewett Gallery.

In She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female Werewolves, Hannah Priest’s writes that the she-wolf “ . . . frequently serves as a visceral and physical manifestation of a ‘bad girl’: disruptive, hypersexual, and homicidal . . .” 3 In other words, she’s revealing her xanimus.

Hewett writes, “As they dance, eat, and play, Oldham’s she-wolves struggle to find balance their wild natural instincts and the accepted behaviors of human society.” 4

Julia Oldham, “Ladies’ Luncheon”, 2017, scratchboard, 16” x 20”. Photo courtesy of Marta Hewett Gallery.

That tension is most clearly seen in two black-and-white scratchboard works: Ladies’ Luncheon and She Wolves Potluck. In the first, the she werewolves are attired in simple dresses that reveal their hairy but still human arms, legs, and bare feet. They sit primly at round tables beneath an elegant crystal chandelier amid globe-shaped pendant lamps. The diners are sipping wine and, with two exceptions, daintily consuming their steaks with knives and forks. Those exceptions are tearing into their slabs of meat.