Gordon believes that a masterful design informs and unites everything in the universe, that purpose and meaning are revealed to those who seek them.
Reweaving the World

Jan Schall, Ph.D.
Sanders Sosland Curator
of Modern and Contemporary Art
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kansas City, Missouri
28 October 2004



Symbolism is the warp and weft of Shea Gordonís work. Together, the delicate threads of synchronicity, numerology, alchemy, androgyny, complementarity, politics, ecofeminism, prophecy, morality, energy, magnetism, biography, and beauty form a fabric of conceptual intricacy and visual simplicity. Pull one strand and the pattern unravels. Stretch the cloth tautly and sail.

Gordon believes that a masterful design informs and unites everything in the universe, that purpose and meaning are revealed to those who seek them. Her work conveys the nuances of that design, extricating the codes written into and onto all things: life, death, rebirth; space and time; the immanent and the transcendent.

The drawings, paintings, and sculptures in this brochure represent milestones in Gordonís search for meaning, a search that led to the Dead Sea and, paradoxically, to the life that it signifies. Human life. The gold standard. For Gordon, the Dead Sea is more than a body of saline water geographically situated in the country of Israel. It is the theory of everything. It is water that dehydrates. It is a sea within a desert. It lies within a holy land shattered by unholy conflict. Its waters evaporate, then fall as rain upon distant continents. It denies life, yet takes the form of a human embryo Ė head down, ready for emergence from a womblike hollow in the land, the lowest point on the earth at 1,340 feet below sea level.

These abstractions of complementarity (the Taoist notion that opposites complete one another) carry personal meaning for the artist, as well. The embryonic form of the Dead Sea appears, inverted, in the body of water abutting Gordonís birthplace, Miami Beach. In one yearís time (1982-1983), she gave birth to a daughter and buried her mother. In 1987, she created a two-week-long, environmental performance piece in the rainforest of Brazil, which culminated in a procession from the Amazon River to a sculpture of the Dead Sea that she had installed near Icoraci, a town in the northern state of Para. She later learned that the Dead Sea had flooded during this period.

An additional series of coincidences brought Gordon closer still to the Dead Seaís mystery. On a flight from London to Paris in 1987, she sat next to a priest returning from a monastery above the Dead Sea. On a 1989 flight to Chicago, she was seated next to the vice president of the American Salt Company. At a private gathering in Kansas City, Missouri, she met Tina M. Niemi, one of the foremost scientific authorities on the Dead Sea, who lived in nearby Kansas. Niemiís book, co-edited with two other scholars and entitled The Dead Sea: The Lake and Its Setting (Oxford University Press, 1997), became the inspiration for Gordonís ionization and magnetic anomaly chart drawings and paintings.

In works like ION Interaction: Gypsum saturation in mixture of Dead Sea water and fresh water, 2003, the artist enlarges and gilds a scientific graph. By doing so, she acknowledges the art of science, transforms the so-called ordinary into the extraordinary, and underscores the precious wisdom of the world. Pure and reductive in form, the painting is rooted in Minimal and Conceptual art practice.

Full Circle: Clear Sailing Into the 21st Century, 1998 pays homage to Captain William Francis Lynch of the U.S. Navy, who in 1848 led the first expedition dedicated to the scientific exploration of the River Jordan and Dead Sea. It also presages Gordonís own millennial intention to sail a transparent, embryo-shaped boat across the embryonic Dead Sea. She believed that this shamanistic gesture, pregnant with socio-political-environmental hopes for the world, would symbolize and effect clear sailing for the twenty-first century.

Aerial Garden (short), 2002 embodies the ecofeminist principles that underlie Gordonís entire oeuvre. Its Minimal structure belies its organic spirit. The paper hangs loosely; its buckled surface acknowledging its saturation with water-based paint. The parallel, vertical lines are strips of seed tape woven into the dark paper field. The hemispheric form, a manufactured armature for a hanging floral basket, is similarly interwoven with seed tape, the strands of which cascade from its center. This is a symbol of fecundity, of agriculture, of the interaction of nature and culture. Here, male and female elements unite to reweave the world as a place of cooperation rather than domination.

This is Shea Gordonís prayer for the future.

Puzzle of Night, 1967, oil on canvas,
12" X 5"