AUSTIN, Texas — Video and installation artist VLM, also known as Virginia L. Montgomery, has transformed Women & Their Work Gallery into a space ripe for discovery and extraordinary encounters. The show’s title, Eye Moon Cocoon, describes the tripartite link between the artist, the moon, and the Luna moth that lies at the center of this work. These elements, and their metaphysical relationships, have fascinated VLM for years, as evidenced by still images from her 2019 video “Honey Moon,” on view in the gallery’s entryway. From this ongoing investigation emerges a new collection of videos, sculptures, and soundscapes that initiate connections between humans and their natural surroundings and envision a hopeful future when Anthropocene hierarchies are overturned.
Within the framed wall text, VLM writes: “I figured that in all the history of the Earth, no one has ever bothered to help a Luna moth get to NASA so she may encounter what she loves most: her moon.” In the adjacent video, VLM brings a small Luna moth cocoon up to the window of NASA’s Lunar Samples Vault at the Johnson Space Center. She moves the insect deliberately, connecting the elements of artist, moth, and moon with the shape that unites all three: the circle. The round eye of the artist is echoed in the brilliant eyespots of the moth and the glowing orb of the moon. Much like her predecessors in Surrealism and feminist performance art, VLM’s work is at once humorous and ruminative. The idea of bringing hand-raised Luna moths to NASA may seem nonsensical to some, but it demonstrates the kind of interspecies connection and care that VLM hopes to conjure within her work and usher into reality.
The exhibition’s primary installation connects three video works through a central soundscape and two sculptural components, including VLM’s own antique Shaker bed. The main video, “Moon Moth Bed,” follows a Luna moth as it is born from a cocoon into a miniature replica of the artist’s bed and unfurls its brilliant wings. The serene birth is pierced by the appearance of a circular drill, another frequent character in VLM’s universe, yet flowing honey quickly soothes the violence, slowing the drill and dulling the tool’s rapid whirring. Trained as a sculptor, the artist brings her eye for three-dimensionality and material experimentation into the video sphere. Multiple angles, dramatic shifts in scale, and the interactive installations within the room create an immersive video in the round.
Each setting within the films is crafted by VLM using practical effects, without green screens or computer-generated images. What you see was created in the artist’s home studio from a combination of printed photographs, handmade miniatures, a 3D-printed moon model, and live Luna moths, captured via a simple camera setup. Contrast between materials and textures — for instance, iridescent pixels that appear as honey drips down a Plexiglas-coated TV screen, the rough edges of carved-out poster board — ground the serene, otherworldly dream sequences. As visitors rest on memory foam, surrounded by marble eggs and the sounds of Texas thunderstorms, it suddenly seems possible to view the distressed world around us with a heightened sense of wonder and possibility.
Virginia L. Montgomery (VLM): Eye Moon Cocoon continues at Women & Their Work Gallery (1311 East Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, Texas) through November 30. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.