April showers bring mud, and lots of it, at least in my little corner of the world. It sometimes feels like you’re walking in quicksand and that everything around you is brown and depressing. The colorlessness of the landscape makes it easy for artists to slip into a slump, even to feel like what they’re doing doesn’t really matter to anyone but them. If that’s how you’ve been experiencing life lately I’d like to suggest that you set aside some time to explore other creators’ work as a way to jumpstart your own, That’s the great thing about the artistic life, ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, not just other writers. Two things I’ve done over the last week that were not only inspirational, but free, include taking in a new exhibit at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and attending an art opening for one of my favorite local artists, Alice Gant.
Staged, Performed, Manipulated (through June 7, 2015) challenges you to think outside the box, or more aptly, outside of the frame. What you’re looking at is not what you were expecting to see and the provocative photos lead you down all sorts of imaginative paths and potential storylines. Some challenge stereotypes and expectations you may not have even know you had, like Renee Cox’s, Yo Mama’s Last Supper, where the artist herself is shown as a nude Jesus and all the disciples are African American, with the exception of Judas, who’s white. Others are unnerving, like a diorama that shows a gang of middle school-age boys in a variety of obviously and subtly threatening poses. The first thing that comes to mind is William Golding’s chilling classic, “Lord of the Flies. However, when you look even closer at the tableau, it becomes even more disconcerting to realize that each image is actually the same boy, just in different clothes. Another particularly memorable photo is the brightly colored one that greets you as you enter the exhibit is Yasumasa Morimura’s, Self-Portrait (Actress) after Liza Minnelli 1. This photo is guaranteed to unwittingly draw your gaze to a specific region of the actress’ body, whether you’re a male or female. This isn’t a huge exhibit but museum curator Andrea Inselmann did a fabulous job with it, so don’t make the mistake of rushing through it to get to the next room.
Alice Gant is a textile artist and fellow TBurger. I have long been a fan of her colorful and joyful banners and even have a blue heron of hers hanging in my dining room! When her grandson was born in Amsterdam, she made him a small soft cloth book which she and her family enjoyed so much that she created a larger “Softer Books” exhibit. With her typical attention to detail, Gant stitched several long horizontal pieces together, using a technique she invented called “neo-reverse applique”, each of which can be folded into a book.
There was a woods-themed one, an ocean-themed one, and my favorite, “The Curious Pets of Trumansburg”.This week make it a goal to get out of your home or office and seek out some art in a different medium than your own. Seeing other creative people’s work can be so much more motivating to winter-weary writers than a scolding or a bribe. It definitely worked for me!
I’ve never even heard of Renee Cox (granted I don’t really follow the art/photography scene). I looked up the piece of hers you mentioned online, and I thought it was really provocative. I would love to be able to see it in person, but I cant get away from FL anytime soon. Also, do you remember the name of the artist who created piece that initially reminded you of Golding’s book? I couldn’t find it online.