Christina Petterson’s ‘IN THE PINES’ at Locust Projects Miami

Seance Room
The Cemetary Space

Christina Petterson’s IN THE PINES at Locust Projects, Miami

Christina Petterson’s installation ‘IN THE PINES’, at Locust projects, evokes and mourns the demise of South Florida’s virgin Rockland Pine Forests, once a mainstay of our local landscape, as well as historical figures who were favorably associated with these forests. The installation includes a make-believe cemetery to them, and in Locust’s Project Space, a ’Seance Room’, filled with related books and memorabilia.
A departure from minimal / conceptual rigors, Petterson’s dramatic program feels right during the current pandemic: We draw back a heavy dark curtain into a dimly-lit, moss-draped environment carpeted in soft, fragrant pine needles. A slow melancholic song, (‘In The Pines’), melds softly into the muted space and a languid dreamy mood. At the far side of the space a video of a dark-cloaked, hooded figure makes her way across a broad untamed landscape. Further on, a circular cemetery of gravestones, marked with names and long-past dates, comes into focus…an old-style bench suggest we pause. .
-‘Here Lieth’, …..so-and-so….read the olde-looking gravestones…
On a right-hand wall, a series of large wood panels with a burnt-in gothic-style tracery at the top, depict a pair of ruined gateposts and a female figure in a landscape, in Petterson’s detailed drawing style.
In the smaller rear space, (The Seance Room’) we seem to have moved indoors to a candle-lit room, cluttered with old pictures, bric-a-brac, and books arranged around a black-draped circular table.
The whole thing side-steps creepy ‘house-of-horror’ sensation, perhaps by a hair. Instead, it’s kind of soothing: As if the Past, and it’s losses could somehow reassure us that drama, (and fear), are the mile-markers of history. Somehow, life goes on.
The Installation references mid-19th century Gothic Revival, it’s focus on morbid romance, indominable nature, spiritualism, and death; and all the ‘sadness-and-longing’, of ‘Gothic Novels’ like Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, about a mis-matched couple who spend their lives acting out irreconcilable passions across the barren moors of 19th-century England; or Edgar Allen Poe’s dark tales of obsession, terror and death.
…And, by extension, .the original ‘Gothic’ era of castles. crusades, mystical religious passions, rigidly cruel socio-economic hierarchies, and predetermined destinies, plagues,…all ending in death, of course.

….all that fatal destiny of unresolvable conflict, yearning, dissolution, of burdensome sadness, and the fashion for pop spirituality…all hopelessly un-Modern!

… but…maybe all hopelessly contemporary too.

Perhaps not unlike ‘Wuthering Heights’ un-tamed Moor, (which was incised by a national motorway about a century later), the death of South Florida’s unique landscape and local history, seem inevitable.

. Mid-19th century Gothicism was also tied to industrialization; the loss of the countryside and rural life that Van Gogh lamented, and which Marx decried: Crowded cities, factory workers’ slums, Cholera and Typhus epidemics, (recurrent now among California Homeless), displaced people, and wide ‘wealth gaps’ had wrought havoc and misery.
Now, as the landscape further gives way to ‘luxury’ developments, oil and gas exploitation, pipelines, and saturation with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, there’s much to mourn; and in true Gothic form, to despair.
The mood Petterson creates in these circular spaces suggest that ‘We’ve been here before’, and things actually got, (arguably), better afterwards’… -So evoking the theatrics of 19th century Gothic Revival may help put at least some of our sense of loss into perspective.
Even so, it would be a mistake to understate the sad transitions of the mid-19th century: The American Civil. War, the British and French subjugation of India, China and Africa, and the preponderance of Imperial governments, (Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, British and French (second) Empire), all in full flower throughout the second half of the 19th century;
-Roughly a century after the ideals of The Enlightenment, were tentatively put in place through the American and French Revolutions, rigid hierarchies were widely in place; almost as if these, (and the ideals behind them), hadn’t taken place, or hadn’t mattered.
If Petterson’s Installation serves as a bittersweet reminder of the frustratingly cyclic nature of historical ‘advancement, the show is a unique window into something that may currently be of less interest than it ought to be: The Past.

David Rohn

3 Illustrated panels

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