Originally published February 21, 2012.
Dreamily drifting among fantasy, facts and fictions, magic and matters of the mind, Elizabeth Huey’s works consider the shifting nature of reality and the myriad of ways we attempt to understand it—historically and presently, collectively and individually—through psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, religion and medicine.
Abracadabra was featured in Huey’s most recent solo show, Polychromatic Projection, at Washington D.C.’s Heiner Contemporary. The painting’s main character, the magician, waves his hands (one markedly blood red) and splits a brave volunteer’s body as his elegant assistant smiles, and we imagine the audience (that’s us) applauds. But instead, the act, usually seen as marvelous, entertaining and even fun, is unsettling and macabre in Huey’s painting: A person has been dismembered. Thankfully, though, we know the trick—we’ll gasp in awe and the magician will wave his hands again and the halved human will emerge whole, able to walk and smile—all’s well. Trips in perception, both sublime and subversive, inspiring and frightening, are Huey’s speciality. In Abracadabra, we’re witnessing just one of her spells, but there’s more to come—while the first, this won’t be the last of her work you’ll see here.
Elizabeth first received a BA in psychology from George Washington University before going on to earn her MFA at Yale University in 2002. She’s been awarded the Terra Museum of American Art fellowship and residency in Giverny, France, a travel fellowship to Italy from Johns Hopkins University and an Artist Research Fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution. Her paintings have been exhibited extensively both in the U.S. and abroad, and they are held in permanent collections at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. Abracadabra marks Ms. Huey’s 20x200 debut, but her history with Jen Bekman Projects goes way back. She was included in a group show at Jen Bekman Gallery in 2007, The Dreier Project presents: The Girl’s Room, alongside Amy Ross, Dana Miller, Esther Pearl Watson, Tema Stauffer and Youngna Park.