In a town noted for its dearth of accomplished sculptors working in a contemporary vein, Sue Latta stands out. "Steel Sue" is a confident competitor in the male-dominated world of metal sculpture and exhibits both in and outside of Idaho. In addition to steel, Latta's sensibility has led to her innovative use of industrial materials such as concrete, rubber and resins, sometimes in a single piece. Her aggressive, expressionist style does not appeal to everyone's taste but it is gutsy and personal in a way that contrasts sharply with the more restrained work in sculpture we usually find locally. In short, it has soul, if often a tortured one. Her powerful Protection Failure in the 2007 Idaho Triennial testified to the role played by physical or psychological wounds in her work. At the time she stated, "I have a deep well of painful experiences to draw from," and they clearly informed the results.
In her new show, "Works of Fiction," narrative is Latta's focus, and an expanded use of resin and digital photography gives her compositions a new tenor. Its literary emphasis is underscored by the poets and songwriters to whom she dedicates the show. All the sculpture is wall-mounted (the absence of free-standing work seems uncharacteristic) and has an underlying theme of personal relationships. The caliber of Latta's technical skills is intact, but her new approach has softened her work's signature edginess, watering down its visceral impact.
Latta's sculptures using wood and/or resin in conjunction with steel or other metals are the most striking, such as the acidic, wounded Love's Memento; a mysterious, copper-encrusted The Darkness Loves Her that draws us into the abyss; and the entwined steel/resin of Unravel. The triptych I've Come Undone is a resin, wood and photographic essay on an anonymous decaying hallway that seems to deteriorate before us, while the fragmentary Trespass, in which an intimidating metal bar with enormous screw heads, grasps the remnants of fractured resin mimicking shattered glass, presents an interesting dichotomy of the immovable and the fragile.
Prominent is Latta's suite called Love Story: nine three-dimensional resin vignettes that read like chapters in a romantic novel. Typical is Lake Pontchartrain combining digital images of handwritten letters imposed over an exotic architectural scene, a cast-bronze horn jutting out as a reminder that these mellow, pensive reminiscences were made by Steel Sue.