Double take: Liz Rodda pairs up the unexpected at Second Street Gallery

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“The Vow” is included in the exhibition “Two Kinds of Luck” by Liz Rodda at Second Street Gallery now through February 26. Photo: Courtesy of the artist “The Vow” is included in the exhibition “Two Kinds of Luck” by Liz Rodda at Second Street Gallery now through February 26. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Ever notice how a small shift in perspective can transform the way you think about your job, relationship, insert-your-life-struggle-here?

Liz Rodda is a mixed-media artist who sharpens viewers’ abilities to reframe what they see by partnering two totally unrelated works in a mash-up of videos, sound and sculpture.

Unlike a traditional collage artist who combines varied media to build a single, unified work, Austin-based Rodda strives to maintain the integrity of each freestanding concept. That juxtaposition triggers a dialogue between the works as well as in the minds of its viewers.

Consider “The Vow,” a work in Rodda’s current exhibit, “Two Kinds of Luck,” on display at Second Street Gallery through the end of the month. In it, a neon-green yoga mat drapes casually across the floor, one end anchored by a silver-gray stone. Read the description and you discover the plaster rock has a bottle of Elizabeth Taylor’s perfume, Forever, embedded in it.

It’s a puzzle, all right. What’s the connection? Are we reflecting on what it means to find permanence on the social and spiritual planes? Our craving for immortality and the futility of fame? Or does it simply suggest that women who make it through yoga classes without a single drop of sweat disturbing their perfect hairdos also have perfume in their veins?

Beats me. But asking the questions to make new connections is the point of the exercise.

“I like contradictions and unexpected pairings,” Rodda writes in an e-mail to C-VILLE. “Context is significant in my work as a result. For example, placing one video beside another changes the way we see both. My goal isn’t to make something greater than the individual elements that are combined, but to see them differently through association.”

Influenced by psychology, philosophy and pop culture, Rodda’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions all over the country.

“I tend to borrow from a lot of different genres and styles—I draw from minimalism, pop culture, music and movies,” she writes. “My goal is to effectively blend genres and styles together when possible. This kind of mixing mimics my process—I spend a lot of time collecting video clips, images and objects and then pairing different elements to create some kind of tension.”

She spends the majority of her time collecting material she can work with and shuffling it around. “Sometimes I shoot video, but more often I use pre-existing video and audio I find online,” she writes. “The same goes with sculpture—sometimes I make objects, but much more frequently I find myself repurposing.”

As an example, she cites a video in her current show at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in San Antonio. “‘Turn Your Face Toward The Sun’ consists of scanned images from modern furniture magazines that pan and zoom slowly over time. The audio is made up of a girl chewing gum and whispering positive affirmations,” she writes. “The audio and video content are really different but somehow work together to give one another a new sense of direction and purpose.”

Rodda’s interest in teasing out relationships between ideas seemingly at odds with each other—really, making work that succeeds in spite of itself—is a product of her self-led exploration of her psyche as an artist.

“I studied English in college and then started making art in grad school directly after,” she writes. “It was a steep learning curve since I knew very little about contemporary art and had minimal art-making experience.”

After school was over, Rodda says, she met an artist named Frank Wick and began to zero in on the type of artist she wanted to become.

“Meeting Frank was pivotal for me not only because I later married him, but also because he showed me it was possible to take your work seriously without being too serious. He introduced me to John Waters and Slavoj Žižek, both of whom have influenced me at times.”

Her sources of creative input run the artistic gamut because Rodda is an assistant professor at Texas State University, School of Art and Design. As a result, she is exposed to and inspired by a wide range of works that she “might not make time for otherwise.”

But, of course, the real goal is that shift in perspective—a gift she gives her students whether they enjoy it or not.

“What I like best about teaching is getting to know individual students and exposing them to works and ideas that I know they will love,” Rodda writes. “At the same time, it is rewarding to show work that is challenging and harder to like.”