Known for her eponymously named collection of semiprecious jewelry, Venetian glass chandeliers and vibrantly colored home décor, designer Dorian Webb returns to her fine arts roots with “The Marriage Project”, a multimedia exhibition at Thelma Harris Art Gallery in Oakland, CA. Comprising a two part examination of the sacred institution, rendered by Webb for the first time in large-scale watercolors and semiprecious sculptures, the exhibition is one that addresses the inherent challenges of wedlock.
Using an array of materials, Webb expands the definition of marriage to include the relationships of co-existing, disparate beings who have overlapping goals and competing interests. Particularly relevant in today’s world of political and cultural division, “The Marriage Project” seeks to demonstrate the inherent difficulty of navigating the terrain of union.
Watercolor paintings and pencil studies make up “Others”, the segment of The Marriage Project that detail Webb’s ruminations on the various forces that impact intimate relationships. Sometimes these are the issues of self image that have been warped by others’ treatment of us. Other times it is the physical presence of other people to whom we have ties.
Each of the two-dimensional art works in “Others” feature protea, a 300 million year-old flowering plant indigenous to South Africa, where mankind is thought to have begun, and that also flourishes in the Bay Area where Webb now lives. The representation of a flower whose dormant buds can survive wildfires is deliberate. “There’s something about the protea that immediately conveys its resilience and a deep-rootedness in the present. Like the institution of marriage, is seems to have transformed only slightly with time. And there is an underlying brutality that is hard to miss.” she explains. Far from grim in their execution, Webb’s brightly colored portraits reveal their layered perceptions through scale, spatial relationships and word play.
In “Displacement/ Dislocation”, the second part of “The Marriage Project”, Webb addresses commonly held expectations of unity and continuity, and demonstrates why these expectations are not only unreasonable, but also wholly unattainable. Using handcrafted bronze and semiprecious stones, the artist registers the acceptance of the existence of “Displacement/Dislocation” as a given, and depicts the results of that disconnection. Here, too, the friction that results in the intersection of high expectations and unescapable reality is depicted through bold use of color and juxtaposition that belies its innate dysphoria. Reflecting Webb’s jeweler’s expertise, these intimately scaled works of art are meant to be within reach of fingertips where they can provide reassurance and solace. “What I find interesting is not the feeling of being ripped from a world that you know, and being thrust into one you don’t, but instead is looking at what comes from that process, and capturing those fleeting moments in a tangible form.” Webb states.