Bettina Hubby with David Cull — Everything Irreversible, Anything Diaphanous
“You should pray for a sound mind in a healthy body,” the Roman poet Juvenal advised, but which of us is lucky enough to have those prayers answered? The conflicting comforts and fears that accompany the reality most of us face, that is, of a fallible mind and body, are the central themes of Bettina Hubby’s project Everything Irreversible, Anything Diaphanous. In it she tackles the age-old specters of illness and death in the contemporary context of material comfort and positive thinking.
Hubby often deals with the seemingly mundane or unpleasant aspects of life, ranging from the inconvenience of having a construction site outside her house to the earth-shattering effects of being diagnosed with cancer. A kind of catharsis is one of the aims of Hubby’s work, which sometimes take the form of events in which her audience takes part. In these works, though, catharsis is not simply a matter of purging negativity, but a more dialectical, unresolved, and humorous process that integrates the contributions of participants and collaborators, often to subversive effect.
Everything Irreversible, Anything Diaphanous comprises collaged images of household objects—mostly soft furnishings in bizarre and anthropomorphic arrangements—combined with speech bubbles or dialog boxes, alternately expressing deep-seated fears and palliating reassurances. These textual elements, written by Hubby’s collaborator, David Cull, take the form of couplets whose timeless, even pastoral, quality counterpoints the magazine glossiness of the images, undercutting their rakish optimism with suggestions of the inevitability of death. This anxiety, which creeps in from the margins of the pictures, places the work in the long tradition of the memento mori, especially vanitas paintings designed to remind viewers of their own mortality. In spite of this morbidity, however, the series suggests the ways in which we come to terms with adversity, finding comfort in the sublime experiences that inhabit the everyday world around us.
Bettina Hubby is a visual artist living and working in Los Angeles. Her work, which engages diverse communities and often exists in settings that challenge the conventions of exhibition spaces, celebrates collaboration and resists easy categorization. She earned her MFA in 1995 from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and moved to Los Angeles in 1999. She is represented by Klowden Mann. She was recently featured in Wallpaper Magazine as one of the top creative talents in Los Angeles and was included in Artforum’s “Best of 2014.” She has been featured on NPR (in 2012 and 2013) and in LA Weekly, New York Magazine, Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and many others.
David Cull was born in in Bangkok, grew up in Germany, and received a rough finish in the United States. He studied philosophy in Baltimore and creative writing at Columbia University in New York. His stories have been published in Fence, Milan Review, and elsewhere. He has collaborated frequently with visual artists including Iva Gueorguieva, Michelle O’Marah, and Bettina Hubby. He currently lives, writes, and works odd jobs in Los Angeles.