If the sight of a naked woman wearing an albino Kermit the frog head doesn’t make you feel a bit unsettled, then in all likelihood you didn’t grow up watching the Muppets.
If the dark scene straight out of Star Wars doesn’t make you want to suck your teeth even a tiny bit, then you weren’t around for the fallout suffered by thousands of Star Wars fans heartbroken by the revelation that their childhood could not be brought back to the big screen the way they hoped.
The references are so clear; every piece in the exhibition is substantiated by a throng of cultural archetypes. To a point, the show’s theme of storytelling becomes redundant if, and perhaps only if, you share in the culture presented here. That is the objective of this exhibition – to reflect and mythologize the culture in which the artists and their viewers are established and exposed. Thus, the show becomes a matchmaking device between artist and viewer.
In “Tell Them Stories: Origins, Marshall Jones and Tun Myaing sought to characterize art as a mixed medium storytelling platform, distinguished from other forms of storytelling by the expedience of delivery of the full story to the viewer. Unlike contextualized narrative which, in western cultures, paces the audience by providing a setting, character, exigency, and conclusive development; the visual platform delivers all of these elements immediately. The viewer is responsible for putting the pieces together. Often, the viewer’s experiences influence the conclusion drawn from the story as much as the elements provided by the artist.
Some may not see the pastels in Gus Storms’ work as derivative of the genre from which his characters presumably hail. Others may not connect too closely with the red–eyed furies Zoe Williams presents in her story of treasure hunting and the grotesque displays that result from the habit of taking life for sport. Others, still, may wonder what drove Allison Sommers to disembowel her fringe archetypal characters in such a way. Many conclusions can and should be drawn. Each conclusion is a reflection of the shared and unshared experiences of both artist and viewer.
The graphic novel, comic, or manga genre of visual storytelling is a bridge between the traditional narrative and the story conveyed by single-panel art. The viewer is provided an order in which to interpret the piece, and distinct visual cues to respond to such as the simple raising of a grazing herbivore head to signify the threat of the large-clawed hoof in the next panel as we witness in the work presented for this show by Nate Simpson.
“Nonplayer” by Nate Simpson
Comic panels are not the only framework for setting a visual narrative. The tarot card format of Tony Dimauro’s works entwine the image with the ethos of pagan tradition and ritual. The new framework turns a children’s bedtime story into an ominous foreshadowing of what is to come, or perhaps where we are going.
“Wheel of Fortune” by Tony Dimauro
Juxtaposing two separate knowns is an immediate trigger for viewers – past and future, east and west, old and new, feminine and masculine, living and dead. Pure examples of this can be found in the sculpted work of Christina Graf who shows us the living flesh behind dead eyes. The comparison is beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful.
“Vanitas IV” by Christina Graf
Several of the pieces in the show use contrast to guide the viewer through their potential narrative; relying, as expressed, on the viewer’s previous exposure to the paradigms prevalent in the culture the artists represent.
“State of the Union” by John Brosio
“Street Sweep” by Peter Drake
Where a viewer of the show may interpret “origins” in the show’s title as the “origin story” of the characters whose story the artists are depicting, one could also take the “origins” to better express the artists’ cultures and experiences. These origins are those of the artists, not of the art nor the stories in them.
Ultimately, this exhibition is about the power of storytelling, and its continued relevance. Each piece brings the viewer into the personal story of the artist, and creates roads for the imagination to travel.