A girl hurls feet-first through space, her body stretched supinely, limbs tucked tautly by her side resembling a trapeze artist, a cheerleader, a witch, a magician's assistant, a child chanting stiff as a board, light as a feather, or a spellbound ballerina pinned to a wind-up box that hums a menacing melliloquent tune, prostrate and paralyzed by the hypnotic incantation.
Metal breasts perch on the surrounding walls like militaristic gargoyles, peering out like eyes that bear witness to the girl's contortion, gripping plant stems commonly found in swamplands. The flowers cascade out of the bosoms like a forcefield as if they are enchanting the girl—conductors and choreographers of her seance, casting spells with their spindly pistils. This enchanted scene feels familiar, recalling a long history of contorted women, their spines bent and twisted by invisible forces. The breasts and belly of another undulating body begin to emerge from the wall behind the petrified levitating girl as if to suggest that they are corporeally bound to some ghostly track, caught in a coiling loop. Perhaps she is a shadow, a doppelganger, a twin, another personality that emerges as the airborne girl splits and splinters with each bounding leap.
Shana Hoehn presents the body as a site for metamorphosis—the transformative body as a fleshy sarcophagus, a cocoon, a nest, a pulsating house where life and death converge.1 The body of the levitating girl appears calcified, clenched in anticipation as if bracing for impact as transformation takes hold, pummeling through the air, oscillating between states of momentum, suspension, and eruption, of appearance and disappearance, as she hurls into uncertain realms and unfixed states of being. To be human means to be metamorphic; at some point, we are forced to give way as our bodies, relations, and environments shift and change. The cattails and mushrooms that germinate and decay from the breasts of armor seem to whisper embodied knowledge about how to metamorphize well, which sometimes requires us to willingly toss ourselves into states of transformation which require mutability, duality, and uncertainty, whether enacted as acts of survival, self-evolution or otherwise.
– Lauren Guilford
1A feminist reading of Apollo and Daphne exemplifies transformation as a feminist strategy. Daphne, a "virginal nymph," becomes fed up with Apollo's relentless advances and transforms into a laurel tree to escape his possession. Ovid describes Daphne as "stubbornly single, she'd roam through the woodland thickets, without concern for the meaning of marriage or love or physical union." As Apollo chases Daphne through the woods as though she is prey, Ovid writes, "A heavy numbness came over her body; her soft white bosom was ringed in a layer of bark, her hair was turned into foliage, her arms into branches. The feet that had run so nimbly were sunk into sluggish roots; her head was confined into a treetop; and all that remained was her beauty." Like Daphne, the body of Hoehn's hovering girl is also made of wood, eternally petrified in nature. And like trees that communicate through ancient networks of roots, and plants that grow in swamplands despite their circumstances, so do Hoehn’s bodies and flora, transforming and adapting to survive and evolve. Ovid, and D. A. Raeburn. Metamorphoses : a New Verse Translation. (London: Penguin, 2004): 29-33.
Shana Hoehn (b. 1991, Texarkana, TX) lives and works in Los Angeles. Hoehn has participated in numerous fellowships and residencies, including a Fulbright Fellowship in Mexico (2013-2014), Artpace International Artist in Residence in San Antonio (2021), the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands (2019-2020), Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2013), the Core Program at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2016-18), and SOMA Summer in Mexico City (2016), among others. Selected exhibitions include those at Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK; Blaffer Museum, Houston, TX; Art Pace, San Antonio, TX; Euqinom Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Contemporary Art Museum Houston; Lodos Gallery, Mexico City, MX; Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA; Make Room, Los Angeles, CA; Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston,TX. Hoehn received her MFA from the Virginia Commonwealth University in Sculpture and Extended Media and earned a BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art.