Desirée Holman's 'Sophont in Action' shows May 10–July 20 at the di Rosa, 5200 Sonoma Hwy., Napa. 707.226.5591. www.dirosaart.org.
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ALIEN NATION Artist 'Desirée Holman's new show explores the pseudoscientific and the extraterrestrial.
Artist Desirée Holman has spent her professional life researching human behavior in a most unusual way.
She observes subcultures that seem outside the norm of society, but inform the mainstream.
Holman's latest project examining these subcultures is her most out there—literally. "Sophont in Action," a multimedia exhibit, looks at our fascination with the realms of pseudoscientific ideas and extraterrestrial icons. Her new work will be exhibited at Napa's di Rosa gallery.
"This project is largely about this subculture gone mainstream, under the umbrella of New Age, which northern California has been seminal in dispersing," Holman explains. The exhibit's highlight is a striking series of portraits of "extraterrestrial" masks worn by human figures in front of an aura haze.
"This isn't about my interpretation," she says, "it's more about our desire for [and] fantasy of extraterrestrials."
In past works, Holman has examined the obsession with television and fascination with newborns. With "Sophont," Holman seeks to understand how the collective vision of aliens has become so uniform and so familiar. "Why are popular visions of extraterrestrials always bipedal, always humanoid? "
Holman explains how this cultural phenomenon took place alongside other cultural milestones like the Civil Rights movement. Before the 1960s, aliens were often seen as tall, fair-skinned beings that looked more or less exactly like people. Then, following popular stories of sightings and alien abductions, they evolved into the gray, large-eyed creatures we all now immediately picture.
"We're really homocentric," says Holman. "The beings are other than us enough that we can project hopes and fears onto them, but similar enough that they're easy to grasp emotionally and intellectually."
Holman's latest show also includes paintings of the luminous aura that some believe we all emit. Inspired by the work of Guy Coggins, the Peninsula-based inventor of the Aura Camera, Holman depicts the colorful energies, which are supposed to tell us about our emotional impact on the environment.
Holman counters this with a series of stunning starscapes, images one might find on a NASA website, peering deep into the galactic abyss. All three styles of paintings lead the viewer from the outer fringes of science into the realm of accepted alternative ideas and theories.
In addition, the show will boast a massive live performance on June 28, as community-based Ecstatic Dancers, Indigo Children and Time-Travelers take to the grounds and manifest a living utopia of science-fiction and New Age concepts made real.