Critiquing the Human Condition
By Lydia E. Denkler
Cumberland Gallery’s Unique Visions, a multimedia group exhibition, features a fascinating mix of work in an array of mediums. The seven artists from around the country offer a visual feast of cleverly constructed symbols, metaphors, and dark humor that examine individual childhood memories, the hideous beauty of humanity, and the incongruent relationship between community and self. This exhibition, continuing through November 23, highlights seven artists’ work in varied mediums using distinctive ways to communicate views of the human condition. From humor to sarcasm to horror these artworks will give you something to think about and a rich visual feast to enjoy.
Veteran artist Fred Stonehouse explores the aesthetics of the grotesque in two of his featured pieces, One Bad Dog and Both Ways. Like a family heirloom set in an antique frame and executed in a color palette that hints at another era, these works, Stonehouse says, describe alternate worlds, with miraculous and disturbing images. “The characters in my work are drawn from this pool of familial and cultural lore and appear to be descended from long ages of inbred hybrids whose former mythic status is lost in history.”
Marcus Kenney’s Blood Suckin Vampire is an image of Abraham Lincoln in full vampire gear. This dark piece howls greed and hunger. Is it for power or just from desire for more and more?
Artist Craig Cully creates representational, deadpan portraiture with a farcical twist. In Conviction and Birthday Portrait, he depicts a deep inner conflict while balancing conflicting forces in unexpected lush and uncomplicated colors.
Chaise, a photograph by new artist Julie Blackmon, is a cinematic tableau that documents a moment of sanctuary amid the chaotic struggles of modern family life in our overly striving culture. “The stress, the chaos, and the need to simultaneously escape and connect are issues that I investigate in this body of work. We live in a culture where we are both child-centered and self-obsessed. The struggle between living in the moment versus escaping a reality is intense since these two opposites strive to dominate.”
The mixed-media work of Andrea Heimer explores the conundrum of suburban life. The Exotics contrasts the underlying blandness of life living shoulder to shoulder with fellow humans with a decided quirkiness and kink. “It’s a bit Stepford Wives, a little bit Close Encounters, a little bit Blue Velvet.”
Mark Hosford, Associate Professor of Art at Vanderbilt, says that as a child his overactive imagination was enlivened by “fantastic, imaginative worlds and lucid dreams.” Animation was a determinative influence. Boxhead is one of the three record players included in the exhibition with a spinning prismatic feature that brings vintage animations to life.
Will Smith’s bold cartoonesque work creates a frenzied circus that broods on both personal and political issues of the day as well as the incompatible parts of human nature. This riotous work is both comic and deeply troubling.
Carol Stein, the director at Cumberland Gallery, says she feels a responsibility to expose young artists to the Nashville community as potentially a jumping-off place toward national prominence. This show provides an opportunity for the public to get a sense of what’s new in the art world.
Unique Visions will be open at Cumberland Gallery through November 23. For more information, visit www.cumberlandgallery.com.