by Janell Hughes
These are different UFOs. Esther Pearl Watson, through delicate 8” by 10” acrylic paintings, glitter, aluminum foil and descriptive titling, gave the Flying Saucer character. Or, rather, many characters, as they are as varied as any other grouping of personified things.
One such landed on a farm, caused “mischief, and took off”. Others were Lady Saucers, but only in CA, and some were painted entirely with glitter. Glitter is a material that can add a level of silly or fun to almost anything, and the thought of a flying saucer or car sparkling across the sky or street is definitely that. One piece is an array of flying saucer shapes in various small sizes. They are cut out of aluminum foil and hang about two inches from the wall around a square panel upholstered in a sparkly dark blue fabric —the starry night sky surrounded by flying saucers. Where else would they live but beyond the edge of the universe? Or as the title, Foil saucers that dance around a square Universe., suggests, where else would they dance?
The use of aluminum foil in many of the pieces brings me to two places. The first is the dexterity of aluminum foil; it can be folded into a miniature boat or airplane or, depending on who you ask, prevent other-worldly signals from accessing the human brain. The second is the kitchen, wrapping left-overs and covering casserole dishes. Protecting and insulating.
Beer can hunting. Sasche, Texas, Saturday, December 17, 1988., is a collection of drawings done in pen on the insides of what looks like cardboard food packaging. The drawings are in the same simplistic style as the paintings and use the same imagery- abandoned cars, empty lots, scenes with open spaces and buildings that evoke a feeling of rural life.
Back to the paintings, the only car painted in glitter is the only one that still runs. All of the cars, including the glittery one, are modest sedans with slightly boxy shapes, nothing fancy; these are cars made for transportation. There are two series of paintings with glittery flying saucers. One day everyone will have flying saucers and they will have many lights and beautiful colors. Did I ever tell you that one day everyone will have flying saucers? I did? Well, I was just thinking how nice it’ll be. The glittery saucers along with the glittery car sparkle us off to Utopia. Maybe this is Slumberland, Little Nemo flying on his four-poster bed trailing stars. The figures dancing around these flying saucers appear to be celebrating their arrival. Maybe they see them as a way to go anywhere and not be stuck in Sasche, TX.
There are no sparkly, benevolent saucers in Texas if the paintings are to be believed. They are in Pasadena and Sierra Madre, CA and amidst dancing figures. Elsewhere there are destructive and mischievous flying saucers. One hovers in The house on Masters St. has been knocked down. There is only a field where it once stood., implying that it is the reason the house is gone.
The painting that shares the title of the show has no flying saucers, no cars, no glitter, and no dancing people. It has aluminum clouds, funneled towards the bottom like tornadoes but not touching the ground. Below is a long view of a fenced-in field at dusk. The Weirding Field waits.