Review: “Flatland Revisited” at Lydia Street Gallery

Dreaming young girls and reimagined worlds run rampant in new solo exhibit

A close-up of McTree Forest by Deanna Miesch (photos courtesy of Deanna Miesch)

Flatland, the 1884 novella by Edwin A. Abbott, tells the story of a two-dimensional universe in which women are lines and men are polygons. These geometric shapes and their distinctions are a metaphor through which Abbott explores the hierarchies and prejudices of the Victorian era. In "Flatland Revisited," artist and gallerist Deanna Miesch takes inspiration from both Flatland and Lewis Carroll's Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and uses these sources as a launch pad to delve into her own realm. Yet despite both Abbott's and Carroll's mathematician backgrounds and the heavy mathematical subject matter in Flatland, Miesch's exhibition seeks to interpret the more emotional elements of their work. What Miesch seems to derive from these two stories is an affinity for a more fantastical approach to viewing the world.

Debuting at her own Lydia Street Gallery, Miesch’s intention for the show is a defense of fantasy and an example of its proper execution. The show’s description reads: “From 'fake news’ and conspiracy theories to the advent of artificial intelligence, there are numerous threats to truth, reality, and our biosphere in these tumultuous times.” “Flatland Revisited,” therefore, serves as Miesch’s response. Using photography, sculpture, and paintings, Miesch encourages mysticism and childlike exploration of adult concepts.

In “Flatland Revisited,” Miesch strengthens the muscles of the mind that push us to question our norms and conjure up fresh ideas.

In this two-room exhibit, the first room consists almost entirely of film photographs. Sans digital manipulation, Miesch frequently employs a double exposure method in-camera that results in one photo containing different layers of images. The image on top is more transparent, hovering over the other like a ghost. This technique breeds dreamy results, making the final product look like a fading memory. Vast natural spaces and pensive little girls are the most common subjects, apt for her distinct moody vision. Aspen Power Supply, Nathrop, CO (2019), for example, is a black-and-white picture that layers two different images of tree-filled landscapes. Both the coloring and the double-exposure technique give the natural wonders a haunting ephemeral quality.

In the second room, the imaginative elements of the show escalate. Playful and eccentric in contrast to the more severe and nostalgic pieces of the first room, this section of the exhibit feels like a real-life pop-up book, in which characters and objects from children’s books are in the room with you. Killer Bunny (2024) shows a human-sized rabbit made of felt, sitting in a chair and holding a knife. Numerous artistic reworkings of globes hang from the ceiling. A huge felt mural titled McTree Forest lines the back wall and incorporates everything from a giant peacock to a tree that sprouts eyes from its branches.

Stolen Mother

Though whimsical and youthful, Miesch’s work still seeks to interpret various political and social matters. Her repeated use of globes in an exhibit pointedly titled “Flatland Revisited” pokes fun at flat-earthers. The sculpture Emerging from Flatland (2012) references the book once again, but with a focus on women taking form and journeying beyond a two-dimensional existence. Most prominently, there is a reverence for nature’s beauty and wildness that underscores the entire exhibit.

Miesch acknowledges the discursive quality of the exhibit, noting “disparate” sources for the themes in the exhibit’s description. While there’s a slightly unfocused approach to the social and political commentary, her most overt argument centers around the importance of making a clear distinction between a created mythical universe and the world we live in. For Miesch, it’s vital that we don’t lose touch with our ability to know what is and isn’t real. It’s also important that we continue to engage with imaginative thinking. Fantasy, overall, reminds us of our dreams and encourages new perspectives. In “Flatland Revisited,” Miesch strengthens the muscles of the mind that push us to question our norms and conjure up fresh ideas.

“Flatland Revisited”

Lydia Street Gallery

Through Aug. 11

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Lydia Street Gallery, Deanna Miesch, Flatland Revisited, Flatland, mixed media, exhibit, Alice in Wonderland

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