Volwiler-Stanley at the press, printing her laser-cut woodblock for the print-based installation series in  The Lawless Forest

Volwiler-Stanley at the press, printing her laser-cut woodblock for the print-based installation series in The Lawless Forest

The Prey-Beasts Find Forgiveness in the Lawless Forest

The Prey-Beasts are characters that live in the “Lawless Forest,” a storybook place that is not too far from our own reality. In their physical form, these mighty yet delicate creatures are hybridizations of prey-animal and human anatomy, knuckledusters, and gavels. Although otherworldly, they resemble the very real and visceral sense of fragility and the resilient will to fight and survive in the face of trauma.

The prey-animals featured in the Prey-Beast series are chosen for their behaviors when in the grips of a predator. In this manner, the Prey-Beasts give image to something unseen and formless: they are creatures who’ve been under-voiced, under-empowered, and dehumanized.

Accompanied by textual elements of the artist’s diaristic poetry, they seek reckoning, redemption, and above all, healing. As reflections of human suffering and trauma, the creation of the Prey-Beasts is largely driven by the oppression that binds half of the world’s population based on their sex and gender.

 As a source of strength, Wonder Woman has become a cultural “medicine” for women and girls: through rousing inspiration, her narrative has become adoptable for those who feel and are vulnerable to patriarchy, instilling courage where there was once weakness. Following the narratives of Artemis and Wonder Woman as Healers and art as healing agent are the Native American mythologies revolving around animals as medicine.

The Prey-Beasts are identified as “self-destructive” because they are never printed the same way twice. Much like emotions and memories, there is a subtle evolution over time of their image as the woodblock deteriorates. Inversely, the woodblocks are fabricated through digitally designed drawings ultimately cut with a laser-CNC, thus in theory can be recreated and printed infinitely. Visual representations of the Prey-Beasts are manifested through seemingly endless repeating woodblock prints of detailed silhouettes on extensive swaths of upholstery fabric and paper scrolls. 

While the Prey-Beasts are about giving image to something unseen and formless, the accompanying poetry, through silkscreen and hand carved woodcut relief printing methods, is obscured and is made otherwise illegible in many respects and lucid in others. Text, then, is reduced to form, and is no longer encumbered only by what it says and its meaning. Its essence may be disintegrated, but it is not degraded: like matter, it is only changed, not destroyed.

The installation component of the Prey-Beast series is constructed in such a way to create an environment that is immersive as an accumulation of space-filling and draping veils, yet the installation protects itself through being perceived physically inaccessible. A push-pull relationship is formed between the work and the viewer: while the installation is otherwise perceived as unapproachable, the repeating patterns and symbols and symmetrical representations play into the imagery’s use of beauty to compel the viewer inward.