NYCNY: Detail from Blake Anderson's 'new york city,' part of the photographer's installation about home and what it means to leave it.
A new series of juried shows at the Felix Kulpa Gallery blazes a trail from here to the hereafter
By Mike Connor
Cli-ché (n.) A trite or overused expression or idea, such as a dictionary definition prologue to an essay
One of the most abused clichés of the essayist is the definitive prologue. As an organizing principle on the playground of ideas, a dictionary definition has about as much real authority as a persnickety prefect. On the other hand, a compelling triptych of themes and their definitions, properly conceived, can motivate an otherwise motley crew of artists to self-organize into a veritable orchestra of artisans working to express their unique takes on a larger idea.
Local artists Bridget Henry and Jake Thomas are collaborating with Robbie Shone, director of the Felix Kulpa Gallery, to curate a series of three juried shows with themes that tease out the political and the personal: "The Situation"; "The Manifesto"; "The Bomb."
The political narrative connecting these themes is particularly obvious for an art show during wartime, but further probing reveals that the curators intend the themes not as boundaries but as portals to broader artistic explorations.
"It's a continuum of shows," says Henry, a popular Open Studios artist whose dreamy, mythical woodcuts currently adorn the walls of the downtown cafe Chocolate. "It's using art as a way of addressing the human condition, our place in it and how we grapple with questions that are hard to answer--and trying to answer them in a language that can be understood on another level."
Thomas, a painter and Ph.D. candidate in literature at UCSC, breaks down--and opens up--each of the three themes: "First, it starts out as describing the situation--the events that took place, the conditions of the time. Then it progresses to the manifesto--it's focused on a person's particular view of potential courses of action that could be taken. The third, 'The Bomb,' is an expression of all those potential energies coming together and being released."
Six artists whose work fits the theme were recruited for "The Situation." Blake Anderson, who's leaving Santa Cruz for New York City, will present his photography installation about place and home--what this one means to him, and what it means to leave it. Russel Brutsche's paintings explore his self-avowed practice of simple living at the fringes of society and the cultural riches to be found there.
For Hildy Bernstein, whose father, mother and close friend recently died of cancer, the body is home, and one that everyone must leave. Thomas describes Bernstein's work as "a sort of meditation on what it means to leave your body. For her, the situation is very personal, very emotional and charged with authentic feeling and an ethereal quality of ghostly places."
Joey Tamony locates himself firmly in the psyche, expressing surreal psychological portraits via ceramic sculptural busts. Antonio Cuellar's abstract sculptures pay tribute to revolutionaries like Chiune Sugihara and Marvin Gaye.
Thomas describes Myra Eastman Dorn's large oil paintings about Hurricane Katrina as "a perfect visual metaphor of what people talk about today as 'interculturality.' The situation is there's all these cultures competing and choking each other out, sort of a Darwinist vision of multiculturalism. Her paintings are depicting that, but in a way that becomes musical, in a symphony of figures."
Next in the series is the "Manifesto" show. "We wanted to follow up with 'Manifesto,' as in the proposal for manifesting change," says Henry, "and in a way I feel like that's been the beauty of art--it's a place where you can actually create your concept of how you want the world to be; you get the power to imagine something and create it on a really small-scale level how you want to see the world."
The Situation art exhibition runs July 7-31 at the Felix Kulpa Gallery; 107 Elm St., SC. Call 831.469.3923 for more details and information about submitting work for upcoming shows.
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