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SANTA FE, N.M. — The work of three wildly different, accomplished women sculptors is on view at Dwight Hackett projects. The majority of the pieces are by Heather McGill in what is really a solo exhibition of her candy-apple constructions contrasted by the serenity of two cast-glass heads by Micaela Amateau Amato and three effusive new paintings-on-paper along with a 1992 sculpture by Lynda Benglis.

McGill’s luminous, multi layered pieces have to be seen to be believed. You may ask: Are they really made by a human? Their contents display a delightful sense of humor played out in over-the-top perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive object making by an artist whose eye-hand coordination has thoroughly incorporated the spray gun along with a proliferating imagination using laser printing and cutting for improbable combinations. A 2011 cut paper kaleidoscopic mandala that has the delicacy of a doily features teensy laser-cut figure of pom-pom girls, the Venus of Willendorf, and men with lawn mowers.

McGill, artist-in-residence and head of the Sculpture Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art, has had frequent one-person exhibitions at Hackett since 2004 when she became a seasonal resident of Santa Fe. The California native’s work incorporates a reciprocal triangulation of regional influences – southern California, Detroit, and New Mexico. Common to all is the primacy of the automobile. Custom car culture and laser cut graphics intersect with surf culture and low rider culture.

If you go
WHAT: Micalea Amateau Amato, Lynda Benglis, Heather McGill
WHERE: DWIGHT HACKETT Projects, 2879 All Trades RoadÂ
WHEN: Through July 2. Gallery hours: 12-5 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday.
CONTACT: 505-474-4043 or

McGill is partial to pretty California surfer and custom car palettes and uses many, many coats of complex patterns, including plaids over-painted here with paisleys and wood grains. For the large wall-hung sculptures and a flat composition – all lacquer on metal – her eye-popping paint effects rely on metal flake and glitter within candy-apple paints that only became available after World War II, along with more recent color-shifting pearlescent and metallic paints.

McGill adroitly plays off assumptions inherent in stereotypical male custom car culture in combination with stereotypical female textiles, developing idiosyncratic imagery and methods of working that “contradict a system of hierarchies.” There are so many complex references and oppositions colliding in her work it makes your head spin. For example, repetitive mass production meets painstaking handwork and one-of-a kind applications, as seen in the installation that was assembled on-site. Colors are both seductive and disjunctive. Clown images are both cheery and scary. The works are seamless, smooth and gesture free at the same time as being full of interruptions, jumps, cutouts and pop-ups. Borders and edges that approximate crochet samplers are also repetitive digital sampling.

McGill’s piece de resistance in this show is a 2011 “Untitled” lacquer-on-steel wall relief that juts into space and from the side is a silhouette of a train mirrored longitudinally so that the Rorschach train goes both up and down. Seen frontally the same piece is a human scale, narrow, elegant, almost sinuous snake/spine or perhaps a slice from a giant metal Oreo with pinstriped metal filling.

Another standout is “A Star is Born” – smallish for McGill at 17.5-by- 14 inches – with an intricate overlay of patterns using laser-cut paper tigers. Titled for the Hollywood movies – the 1937 original and 1954, 1976 remakes – three words “Bunk, Junk, and Genius” in plaid cut-out script may be single word commentaries, or a mockery of same, or, more likely, both. It hangs with two other framed cut paper pieces on the installation wall, where the strings of stars resemble beaded curtains that also conjure contrary images – both smoky, B-movie Asian brothels and teenaged bedrooms full of stuffed toys.

In the front gallery, a large McGill grid of 16 clowns comprised of puzzle pieces hangs in the company of two cast glass sculptures of women by Micaela Amateu Amato. This is Amato’s first showing at Hackett and these two figures build an appetite for seeing more of this artist’s work. “Persian girl with shells,” 2004 is a serene, frosted, translucent head in marine shades. As well as wearing a choker necklace of beads and disc earrings ,the female figure is adorned with fan-shaped seashells the size of her ears. She exudes nobility and gravitas, and has the cool, dispassionate expression of a sentinel, an impartial witness to the vicissitudes of history.

Amato’s other figure titled “Camaroon figure with yellow hands,” 2010, emits torment or ecstasy or maybe both. In hot colors, the three-quarter figure has its fists clenched and held downward by the hem of her dress; her African face is lifted upward with eyes closed. Or, perhaps it is the posture and blissful expression of a woman after a drought who smells rain and welcomes the first drops.

Since the early 1990s, the inimitable, international, irrepressible, peripatetic and energetic Lynda Benglis has also been a part-time resident of Santa Fe. On view are three “Fountain Drawings” (2007-08) of oil crayon on hand-made paper and “Ghost Dance” a bronze sculpture with gold leaf from 1992. The three exuberant drawings depict not the apparatus of a fountain, but only the movement of water sparkling in the air, spurting upward, and sometimes spiraling down.

The sculpture was made at Dwight Hackett’s Art Foundry, then a favorite place to work for other world class artists including Bruce Nauman and Kiki Smith. Beginning in late 1960s, an era dominated by geometry and male artists, Benglis distinguished herself with the liveliness of her wax and poured latex pieces, and neither her vitality nor her attraction to fluid textures have ever abated. The sculpture has the same tactile, clay squishing, finger-play roughness of Willem de Kooning’s bronzes from 1969. However, as always, Benglis’ bright gold-leafed variation updates hundreds of years of somber bronze sculptures by serious men.

Cutline – Simultaneous oppositions abound in Heather McGill’s “Untitled,” a 9-foot-laquer on steel wall sculpture.