Alexis Mollomo

Alexis Mollomo’s narrative tableaux at Ogle Gallery combine a loose, contemporary sensibility with a fine-honed channeling of Flemish Renaissance portraiture and landscape painting. In Keep a Snake in your Pocket, her sophomore show at Ogle, she peppers her panels with arcane symbols that suggest myriad interpretations, drawing from psychoanalysis, myth, and shamanism. Totem poles, burning fields spewing portentous clouds, and androgynous figures wearing sexy boots are among her recurring motifs, populating a world that seems post-apocalyptic, yet somehow ripe for hope. Never one to shy from self-examination, she uses the show to confront and exorcise the demons that haunt post-feminist women, herself included. Portraits of faces covered with hornets, butterflies, and moss portray states of conflict, anxiety, and torpor. Marriage shows a man and woman in a wicker boat on stormy seas, their cozy home on the distant shore, the woman vomiting up torrents of algae as her dogged husband keeps on rowing. In I Might Save You, a mother, pushing a symbolic wheelbarrow filled with milk, stands frozen outside her house as the structure catches fire with her son trapped inside. As smoke billows from the roof and nearby animals bolt for the hills, the woman is paralyzed in the split-second before action. Does she do what she’s supposed to do and run into flames to rescue the boy? Abandon him and join the goats and squirrels in their flight? Or avoid the quandary altogether by diving down a dark hole only paces away, which may or may not represent the option of suicide? This a dilemma rarely portrayed in art: the “Oh shit!” moment when heroism and escapism become equally valid Manichean alternatives. Because humans are wired for hope, we expect the mother will snap out of her indecision and do what she would do in a Sandra Bullock film. Fortunately, Mollomo is more interested in ambiguity than in Hollywood endings.

—“Artists Looking Inward,” Richard Speer, Willamette Week