If, as an adult, you have read Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” you will remember that Alice is confronted with paradoxes, contradictions in logic, disorientation of time and generally puzzlement at her place in that bewildering environment. The book you may have read in middle school as a fantastical tale takes on deeper, more introspective layers of meaning in the seasoned reading and may have prepared you for the current exhibits at Burlington’s BCA Gallery.
The central figure in Valerie Hird’s show “The Garden of Absolute Truths” is Alice, in the form of an avatar. This avatar appears as a hand drawn paper cutout in a video, in works on paper and in a series of book sculptures — three-dimensional collaged boxes. This more contemporary Alice explores and examines her knowledge, assumptions and orientation toward such global issues as migration, social displacement, media filtration — and the implications of East and West perspectives on identity in today’s fluid society.
Upon entering the gallery, I was struck by the intensity of color in Hird’s outsize abstract paintings. The background in these works made me think of mountain ranges, the kind you see in Central Asia — vast, isolated except for its nomadic people. The foreground of Hird’s paintings are an overlay of swirls and tubular coils. I learned later that the artist had spent time in the Middle East and Asia.
In the adjacent gallery are the intriguing book sculptures. The series of four each includes the Alice avatar. In the first, Alice is young, possibly a child coming of age in the late 1960s. The dominant influence on her is the evening news as depicted by a Walter Cronkite-type figure at the base of the book sculpture. A small hand crank on the work clicks on a small light on Cronkite’s network chair. The box is collaged with pages from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” as well as a promotional poster for the film “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.” A small-collaged cover of T. H. White’s “Once and Future King” is also included. For Westerners, particularly Americans, these references take us back to our first encounters with depictions of the East.