Review: Shawne Major's 'Pareidolia' at Callan Contemporary

Shawne Major

Glyph, 2018

Photo courtesy of Callan Contemporary


Do you sometimes see faces in clouds, messages in tea leaves or images of saints in tortillas? If so, you may be prone to pareidolia, a term for how people with overactive imaginations experience pattern recognition.

It may seem like an odd title for this show at Callan Contemporary, but it makes more sense when you look into it more deeply.

Shawne Major's elaborately beaded wall hangings and sculptures rarely resemble anything distinct, but their thousands of tiny stitches, beads, buttons and micro-baubles stimulate the wandering imagination while offering sanctuary from horror vacui. Beyond all that, the New Iberia native gives us something to think about due to the way her colorfully meandering surfaces recall aerial views of Louisiana's swampy topography while evoking bayou-level visions of mystical enchanted kingdoms, like psychedelic duckweed flourishing as a new invasive species.

Just as the historical roots of beaded embroidery are spread far and wide, apparently originating in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and eventually finding a home in medieval Europe, where beadwork became a favored way of rendering saints with startlingly colorful dimensionality, Major's concoctions evoke global roots.

Glyph (pictured) is mind-boggling for its suggestion of tribal beadwork and cellular biology, but it is so interwoven with heirloom traditions that encountering it can be like finding a trove of beaded Victorian handbags containing mummified magic mushrooms amid the rosaries and Irish lace. Others works are more elemental. The marbled undulations of multicolored beads in Blind Alley recall the wavy patterns of muddy silt formations along the bird-foot delta where the Mississippi meets the Gulf of Mexico.

Nimbus is more of a beaded vortex, like an elegant whirlpool of sea foam coughing up jewels from a long-lost shipwreck. Humorsembodies the essence of aesthetic meandering as tiny flowers and shells mix with buttons, pearls and delicate chains in a lapidary gumbo that mingles the treasures of the earth with the dream caverns of the psyche. None of this is practical, but it does recall the Hindu belief that the gods created this world as a gesture of “lila,” the playful creativity they regarded as the essence of divinity itself.

Through Aug. 27. Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St., (504) 525-0518;


Back To Top