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Review: Corrina Sephora transmutes family odyssey into universal symbols, at Gallery 72

Corrinna Sephora: Blue Print Series V, “Voyageur qui fait son Nid (The traveler wishes to create home), faux Lithography on paper, wood and steel.
Corrina Sephora: Blue Print Series V, “Voyageur qui fait son Nid (The traveler wishes to create home),” faux lithography on paper, wood and steel.

Corrina Sephora’s Emergence from the Waters, at Gallery 72 through July 9, is more than a retrospective of the Atlanta metal artist’s sculpture, painting and video. Rather, it forms a unified body of personal symbolism based on family history.

History becomes allegory in a faery (Sephora’s spelling) tale narrative mural dominating one gallery. It comprises the imagery for the book, a scroll called Flowing as Water, which is in the show, and for the video, an animation of the painting (the latter a collaboration with Matt Gilbert and Ana Balka).

A translation into archetypal fantasy of an all too real set of fluid family relationships, it is a tale of loss and return. But the story might not be easily gleaned from the painting despite the recurrence of characters engaged in various travels across water.

This is as Sephora intends it. The story is a translation into symbolic terms of the biographical details of her mother’s life and ancestry, made universal. The boat and its passengers became a recurrent symbol in her work some years ago, originally focused on her family’s emigration to America from Central Europe. This exhibition combines the boat symbol with a succession of other repeated symbols: the ladder, the tree with roots and branches both fully visible, the swirling flocks of birds in migration. Magical huts from the faery tale are a recent addition. Together, they add up to a rich mixture of imagery of departure, transition and arrival.

The beauty of the ways in which these resonant images are rendered is obvious, even if their meaning is not always self-evident. And their archetypal nature is such that we feel at home, regardless: comprehension is not necessary for feelings of congruence.

An interactive storytelling workshop based on her book will be held on June 18, 6:30 -9:30 p.m. A closing reception and book signing is scheduled for July 9, 6 -8 p.m.