Biking one Saturday night on St. Claude, me and a friend stopped at various galleries as part of the once a month Art Walk. The air was cool as any winter day in the south when all you need is a jean jacket. At every gallery there was wine and snacks. I had to be careful not to drink too much otherwise I wouldn’t make it past gallery number three. The white wine was starting to sink in when I realized I couldn’t lock my bike properly. There was a lot of ground to cover, but we managed to see six galleries before heading to another event across town. (I mention 3 here)
From the first gallery, Genius Loci.
“Oral history binds our present to our past, gives us a place to call home and people to share it with. Stories reflect the values of their tellers and speak to the realities of their lives in a ways that facts can never fully encompass.”
The photographs in Genius Loci tell a shared story of the rural woodlands of American often with haunting and mysterious themes that lead themselves to the backdrop of being out there in nature, devious and foreboding. The photographs were taken by Antone Dolezal, Lara Shipley and Paul Thulin.
From the water (pictured above), by Lara Shipley reflects innocence and purity. The contrast of the baby’s bare skin and white hair against the greenness of the water almost out of focus gives you as sense of distance. When I took the photo, a shadow of a man appeared, considering the theme of this photo, it foreshadows a possible future.
Many of these photos made your skin crawl a little. The photo with the black glove over a machete, alludes to troubles in the forest, when you’re stranded or when you’re chopping wood and no ones around and night is approaching. The boys that scared me is a fuzzy, out of focus, photo but enough to see the main subject’s facial expression of “I dare you try that on me, you’ll regret it,” and behind him there’s a guy holding a bottle of liquor. The camera didn’t have enough time to capture his face, instead glazed through it. Still there’s a deviant expression of debauchery in the making.
Where are they? And where are they going? We had all these ideas about what the photo meant before reading the title. We thought they saw something on the side and were slowing down. You could make out yellow lines behind them, indicating they were on a road, possibly a highway. I said, ” This is when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere.” “It makes me want to go on a road trip.” We both looked at the image, entranced, almost wanting to replace the subjects and be on our way to an unknown. The title is Waiting for the light.
This photo was part of the framed vernacular prints: odd creepy photos including a dog with two heads. This particular one made was us shudder. The more we stared at the four women, the more we slipped into their world of rigidness and strict daily routines, we imagine these women possessed and forced upon anyone who met them. Being who we are we rebelled against the idea, cringing at the feeling their stern faces invoked. The four women all had a striking similarity, except for their height. Their clothes and hairstyles were the same, even how they stood with their hands tightly around their side or over their stomach, not letting anything escape. And behind them, the background was nothing more than gray barns and grass– a cruel world.
Rachel David’s Holding Pattern was dark and sinister– a real torture, contemplating what the artist was thinking as she sculpted these pieces. One item reminded me of the mirror the evil queen from snow white looks at before she decides to kill her off. Where would you find these items? In the underworld where someone worse than hades rules over spirits. The entire exhibition was uniform; all the pieces had a resemblance to items formerly used in the spanish inquisition. But you didn’t have to enter any of them, just by staring, it made your blood turn over, looking at the pointy spikes, and grotesque alien arms.
It’s possible the white wine had an effect, but once we fell upon the last gallery, the dancing music, the shatter in the night and the colorful photos, changed our opaque faces. The photos depicted happiness in the present intertwined with freedom discovered and now in full rendering. I loved the nakedness, the giving in to the landscape and the scenes unfolding to flirty nudes, suggestive glances and wild escapes. I left with a lightness of being.