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Timo Fahler, death is our eternal companion. It’s always on our left, an arm’s length away… It’s always been watching you. It always will be until the day it taps you, 2022, rebar, steel, stained glass, lead, magnets. Courtesy of the artist and the Sebastian Gladstone Gallery. Photography by Julius Schlossburg.

BY JONATHAN OROZCOSep 2022

Los Angeles-based artist Timo Fahler takes us inside the church with his ongoing series of stained glass artworks.

While at the Maple St. Construct showroom in Omaha, Fahler began a series that would later morph into highly figurative and colorful glass sculptures. His Precarious As Obtained By Petition Or Prayer exhibition featured compositions inspired by Carravagio’s The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, ranging from linear to geometric to totally abstract.

“The work in Omaha was technically and materially a step ahead of the stained glass work,” says Fahler. “Some of these [works] were hung in the middle of the room and you could see both sides. I didn’t leave the show thinking about making stained glass work – I left with inspirations about light, transparency and translucency.”

He was in a transitional area and wanted to find a way to jump from plaster to another medium. A conversation with a friend in the Netherlands prompted Falher to experiment with this new material.

Timo Fahler, Thalia and Malpomene (smile now cry later), 2022, in copper stained glass, lead, steel, copper, plaster, dye, nylon cord. Courtesy of the artist and the Sebastian Gladstone Gallery. Photography by Ruben Diaz.

Since then, Fehler’s practice has been shaped by metaphors. His pieces often look like windows from a medieval Catholic church with Indigenous American imagery. Others are masks or skins hanging from hands, evoking references to control and marionette puppets.

The origins of stained glass fascinate the artist. Rather than being neutral decorative objects, they served the Church’s missionary interests to secure its dominion over the people of Europe. The process was purely visual, using imagery to convey supernatural powers to the churchgoers seated on church pews.

“Think of the church that almost steals the sun,” Falher continues. “They stole the ultimate tool and turned it into a tool of religion. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to walk into a church for the first time and see this thing if you haven’t seen synthetic paint. I would have believed whatever it told me.”

Simultaneously graphic and symbolic, these objects relate to the alter ego and code switching. Like many Mexicans in the US, Fahler was treated as an outsider. There were only two Mexicans in his elementary school class – the other was his brother. It was only after his white peers called him “spic” or “wetback” that Fahler realized he was different from them.

Timo Fahler, precarious, received through request or prayer, 2020. ©Dan Schwalm / ©Maple St. Construct.

This is an important point in his Alter Ego seriescomposed of appropriated images of canonical European painting but also of the Mexican and white American imagination.

Among the most compelling pieces of art history to have penetrated popular culture is Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. Bartholomew the Apostle, one of Jesus’ original twelve apostles, is depicted holding his skin after being flayed.

Fahler took this image and made it with glass while making it his own by placing a 3D rendering of his face on it.

“I felt the importance and experience of being an alter ego when I first moved away from Tulsa,” Fahler said. “I took away a one-man band experience. It was called Mi Primo Sucio [My Dirty Cousin in Spanish]. I played a bit with my cousin, but it was more of an alter ego experience playing a musician playing a story.

“There were always make-up and costume elements. It was always a presentation from something outside of me. It’s about these images, an embodiment of something that I can’t really picture myself as, but it’s there as a safety mechanism. It’s a face I wear sometimes, it’s a thing I can identify with.”

Timo Fehler, sunrise didn’t lie. comparative mythologies; el quinto sol from the mouth of the serpent bird from the catholic church from the templo mayor from the dirt red dirt, 2021, steel, rebar, stained glass, earth (cimarron river). Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson. Photography by Julius Schlossburg.

Likewise, the works are also about mestizaje, a 20th-century racial theory that can be viewed as a “melting pot”, a blending of European and indigenous imagery.

In an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, Fahler, in collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist Rafa Esparza, displayed pieces that looked like they had been pulled from churches, all with ancient indigenous iconography from Mexico and Aztec codices.

“Timo’s work has a generative tension,” says Esparza. “There is a history of this type of work being done by Chicanos and Chicanas. On top of that, there is this legacy of preserving traditions and culture.”

In this way, the work is informed by the concepts of homecoming in the 60’s and 70’s by Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles. The result is objects that are simultaneously reflective and transparent, deeply embedded in the Mexican and American psyche.

“I think about negative effects and negative feelings and how we can evolve as human beings,” says Fahler. “I know it’s a cliché, but I feel like we’re dealing with this issue right now, both globally and in the United States, that is, a polarizing experience between right and wrong. and I say wrong and right, but it can be other terms, it can be right and left, it can be Christian and non-Christian, it can be so many things. It’s like there are hard yes and no lines and I think it’s a dangerous place for us when we’ve lost the ability to have a conversation.” WM

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