LOS ANGELES TIMES | november 6, 1998

Fire Next Time
by Leah Ollman

Barbara Hashimoto's richly textured new work at Gallery Soolip conjures up fire's split personality -- its power to sustain life and to extinish it. Hashimoto splits her attention in this show, too, between work addressing the Hindu practice of sati -- a widow's self-immolation on her husband's funeral pyre -- and the moral lessons of Hindi storybooks.

"One is Stronger", 1998| 26 x 33 inches (framed) | ceramic, book, dye, india ink

As in her last, quietly moving show here, Hashimoto's sati work unfolds as a highly aestheticized meditation on the gender dynamics implicit in the custom, which draws its name from the Sanskrit word for faithfu or virtuous wife. Through fragments of text scattered among the small, page-like panels of paper or clay, Hashimoto challenges the notion that women practiced sati willingly, in one case citing a historical account of women being forced into the flames with bamboo rods.

The discontinuous, corroded texts of the Hindi storybooks impairs any attempt to draw real meaning from them. But, in the case of the sati-themed work, such fragmentation and erosion resonate evocatively with the subject at hand. Hashimoto'sstrength is in creating textural equivalents to the conditions of compromise, violation, fragility and endurance that are integral to her discussion of sati.

In several works, she coats paper books with wax, then types over them, the impact of the manual typewriter's keys palpable as it penetrates the page and even forces small perforations in it. In other works, she mounts groups of clay tablets that seem ashen, weakened perhaps from burns around the edges, though it was fire that made the substance strong.