"Dorette Amell’s many-pieced and on-going series of views of Japan’s Mount Fuji is both funny and incisive. It shows what happens when you take something that is not just iconic (the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji) but also so ubiquitous that it loses any aura it might have had.
Within the confines of popular culture, Mount Fuji is the Japanese version of the Golden Gate Bridge. Like the feat of engineering, the image of this feat of nature peeks through every building; it commands the view outside office windows. It’s been photographed and painted and drawn countless times. Whatever you do, it’s always there. It’s also a venerable subject for artists: consider Hokusai’s famous series of works that depict it.
But Amell doesn’t so much pay homage to the site itself as to the idea of creating serial images of the site. It’s just like Monet painting the same haystacks, the same cathedral facades over and over again, the better to capture its particular qualities present in each moment of ambient light. But she goes one step further: like Marcel Duchamp’s famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) LHOOQ (he expertly reproduces the Mona Lisa and then adds a little mustache), she takes a famous image and then has fun with it.
The fun consists in both the sense of scale... as well as the many and seemingly endless associations she broaches with the view: the mountain draped in leopard skin, in lion skin.
Fuji as a cupcake, subject to the forces of a magnet, decked out with horns or aliens, or else emerging from a forest; covered in rust, the destination of a dinosaur or a 1930’s Flash Gordon spaceship. Fuji as a trio of t-shirts that billow on a clothesline, in a tropical climate, in a not-so-tropical climate, decked out with flowers.
Amell’s series might look like it’s done tongue in cheek. Really, though, it comments on the way a familiar thing becomes invisible and so the only way to make it visible is to make it unfamiliar, novel, if not a little absurd.
A perfect example? Think of how the artist Christo would wrap entire islands, entire buildings, construct a fence that ran for hundreds of miles, the better to call (better yet, recall) attention to that which had escaped their public’s attention. Amell’s series of work is the bonsai version of Christo’s work: appealing, interesting, and not a little funny."
James Scarborough is based in Los Angeles and writes about art, theatre and film.