The Human Condition Is Dying: Boise Artist Sue Latta Explores Love and Decay 

click to enlarge Left to right: "Dirty Little Secret" and "Tell Tale" by Sue Latta.

Lex Nelson

Left to right: "Dirty Little Secret" and "Tell Tale" by Sue Latta.

If you go into The Texture of Things unfamiliar with Sue Latta’s art, know this: Everything deserves a second, third and even a fourth look.

“I’m all about the magic. If there’s magic in art, I love it. And I try to make magic as much as I can,” said Latta, gesturing to “Tell Tale,” one of her many intricately, deceptively layered pieces.

click to enlarge Twenty of the works in Sue Latta's latest exhibition center on photos from her Instagram page. She calls this The Instagram Collection. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Twenty of the works in Sue Latta's latest exhibition center on photos from her Instagram page. She calls this The Instagram Collection.
Similar to the work she submitted for this year’s Valentine for AIDS silent auction at Flying M Coffeehouse, “Tell Tale” is three-dimensional, composed of steel-framed panes of clear resin shot through with the weblike silhouettes of what could be either trees or branching veins, and overlaid by a paper-white, anatomically correct heart that Latta sculpted herself, then sunk into a lake of shiny black resin. While there appears to be an entire forest of veins, Latta explained that in fact the image had been transferred to only a single layer of resin: the shadowy silhouettes in the background are literal shadows, and disappeared when she raised her hand to the artwork, blocking out the light.

“I’m a big fan of [Edgar Allen] Poe, so there’s my Poe reference for the show,” she said of the work's title.

click to enlarge Latta's "Offering" features drops of her own blood. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Latta's "Offering" features drops of her own blood.
The Texture of Things is a diverse collection, both in materials and content. One section of the 35-piece exhibit is centered on nails, with the phrase “When your only tool is a hammer…” hovering over it in black letters. Snippets of text form the background of many of those pieces, one of which, “Offering” is artistically (and serendipitously) dotted with drops of Latta’s own blood.

“I was working on another piece and I cut myself, and I’m in the middle of a thing and I can’t stop to go get a Band-Aid. So I’m bleeding all over the place, and that’s this,” she said, pointing to the splotches, which range in color from black to rust red. A raven is perched on the largest and darkest of the fractured droplets, its beak forebodingly open. Behind it, the word “offering” repeats itself until it runs off the piece’s wooden backboard.

click to enlarge "Home" stars a photo Latta took in New York while she was on the hunt for decaying buildings. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • "Home" stars a photo Latta took in New York while she was on the hunt for decaying buildings.
Latta said she often sources those lines of text—sometimes song lyrics, sometimes whole poems or short phrases in Latin—from a collection she has been building for years, and their inclusion informed the exhibition's name (Text-ure. Get it?). Lately, she’s been listening to a lot of Gretchen Peters, whose lyrics, like, “the cure for the pain is the pain,” both inspired and shaped the pieces in The Texture of Things

“There was this one piece that I was working on and it’s like, I don’t know what it does, I haven’t figured it out yet. And then I hear this word rise out of this song—the word was ‘offering.’ And all of a sudden, I knew exactly what the piece was about. She had figured it out for me,” she said.
If you visit the Visual Arts Collective, where Latta’s exhibition will hang through June 1 and is open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, those written Easter eggs are worth hunting for. To get to them, you’ll swim through a sea of sculpted skulls, Latta’s own photographs of decaying buildings (one that she visited in New York was literally dripping as it molded, forming the perfect horror film set), resin-coated love letters and tangles of wire, all under the heading “The Human Condition.”

“This show in particular has been very stream-of-consciousness,” she said. “It’s like, ‘I wonder what will happen if I—.’” That space left blank is where the magic happens.
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