Whitehot Magazine

ActionReaction brings Molybdomancy to Queens

Image courtesy of Marie Anine Møller


LIC-Artists at The Factory

Through May 24, 2023

Curated by Marie Anine Møller

By NOAH TAVLIN, May 2023

Works on view by: Heather Abshire, Tony Andrea, Dea Segatto Andrea, Stacy Bogdonoff, Alberto Bursztyn, Ann Cofta, Jessica Duby, Nazli Efe, Natalie Steigmann-Gall, Richard George, Kenneth Greiner, Will Kaplan, Grace Kerr, Kirsten Leach, Seungjin Lee, Iris Loughran, Rose
Malenfant, Troy Medinis, Josh Meillier, Natalia Petkov, Robert Scheirer, Elinore Schnurr, Andrés Senra, Scott Sherman, Katreen Sorokina and Preston Trombly.

On a Saturday afternoon at LiC-Artists in Long Island City, Queens, multidisciplinary artist Nazli Efe conducted an event halfway between a workshop and a Molybdomancy ritual. She led a group of participants in pouring molten beeswax into a cauldron of water. When the hot wax met the water, it solidified into an abstract form. This practice, an integral part of her sculptural process, is derived from Molybdomancy – an ancient divination practice that is still performed in northern and central Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey. Through this practice, a shaman pours molten lead into water and interprets the forms that the lead takes.  

However, rather than interpret the forms herself like a Molybdomanic shaman, Efe asks participants to interpret their own created wax. To her, the texts that people create when they contemplate their forms is like the interpretation of inkblots in the Rorschach test. It is to dive into our unconscious. What we see, feel, or recall is a revelation of the deep crevices of our minds.

Nazli Efe, “Internal Nebula (My Father’s Brain Surgery and Unspoken Words)”, 2022, Glass container, glass pieces, water, shower curtain, beeswax, resin, oil stick, zipper, aluminum sculptures, gauze, dishwashing gloves, stainless steel cart, 39”x20”x16”

So on this quiet Saturday afternoon, a group of mostly strangers gathered to experience how to create wax forms, write about them, and share their writing with the group. Untethered, the writings are intimate and they read more like journal entries or poetry that have been stirred by the act of creation, than as clinical analyses of the self. 

The Molybdomancy ritual workshop was organized as part of ActionReaction, an exhibition currently on view at The Factory LIC, in the LiC-Artists exhibition space. Curated by Marie Anine Møller, the group show features the work of twenty-six artists, and connects approaches, new perspectives, and experimental appreciation. Møller’s selection demonstrates a wide range of approaches to this theme. The full scope of her theme and subject matter ranges from the personal to the political to the environmental.  

Among the pieces exhibited you find the artist Grace Kerr’s ceramic sculpture “Chloe”, which explores an action creating a reaction through its chemical context of layered glazes. The process produces bright saturated colors that subvert expectations. 

Grace Kerr, “Chloe”, 2022, Ceramic, Glaze, Glass, 28.25 x 27 x 10.5", Image Courtesy of Issac Scott

Natalie Steigmann-Gall, uses an expressionist combination of materials to engage portraiture and cityscape through the lens of social theory, creating interpretations of the home, the subway, the street, and other complex social arenas. In her painting “Some Memories Never Leave You,” she depicts an elderly jazz musician. Steigmann-Gall works as an elder companion and many of her clients are artists. Her portrait is a tender meditation on the give-and-take of mentorship, caregiving, and intergenerational relations, especially between artists. 

 Natalie Steigmann-Gall,“Some Memories Never Leave You”, 2022, Oil on canvas, 48" x 36"

Nazli Efe suspends her wax forms into glass tanks of water. In her two sculptures included in ActionReaction; “Internal Nebula (My Father’s Brain Surgery and Unspoken Words) ” and “I Saw A Man Jumping Off The Bridge”, water serves as a mold for the wax, instantly creating the protean wax forms. Water gives these forms life, as it does all things. Suspended, the wax forms take on a prenatal quality – they are fleshy and in a process of formation. Exhibited, they are presented in the material context in which they were shaped. This tells a story of call and response; a dynamic dialogue and a physical manifestation of a memory, yearning to be articulated, yet too personal to be vocalized.  

The stainless steel carts, that serve as plinths, provide the works with a medical presentation further extended to “Internal Nebula (My Father’s Brain Surgery and Unspoken Words)”, where zippers, hair, and broken glass are submerged dreamlike with the wax forms, suggesting the violence of surgery without the viscera. 

Water is not just a tool and an element in her sculptures. It is also a setting. Having been raised in both Istanbul and on the island of Cyprus, Efe spent her childhood in proximity to water. Water serves as a trigger for memory. From Efe’s perspective, water is both the future, the past, and the present: 

“Water is the first thing that scientists look for when they do research out in space. Even a microscopic amount of water on a planet is direct evidence of vitality, it indicates the potential of life and hope for a future. If there’s no water, there’s no life, no vitality. It holds the past and the future and blends them here in the present, at this moment”.


Nazli Efe, “I Saw A Man Jumping Off The Bridge”, 2022, Beeswax, resin, water, glass cylinder, nylon thread, hair, oil stick.

ActionReaction is a reminder that art can be viewed first and foremost as an intervention. From an action, we know that we should expect a reaction. The works in this exhibition manage to contain both an action and its reaction and hold them together in place–thereby articulating  something to us about their materials, environments, processes, politics, or about ourselves. WM

Noah Tavlin

Noah Tavlin is an artist and writer living and working in New York City. He has all of his teeth. Instagram: @noahtavlin

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