“Narratives #7” is a collection that continues my ongoing winter theme of dark days, with this grouping’s subtext being “Where Are We?”! Niklas Nenzen’s “Green Room Defense” gives us no clue to where we might have found ourselves. It is a scene densely populated by an endless assortment of creatures and personalities, some literally “stacked” upon one another, others acting out a variety of pantomimes on and around a main figure lying supine on a divan. An inventory of the cast of characters and props begins to suggest to us the early days of the silver screen, with the grisaille rendering of the "people pile" behind the green curtains potentially signifying a black and white movie projection. As we begin to study the foreground we continue to be at a loss to define the action, with each tableau’s reference more open ended than the next. Thus, appropriately, our main figure seems exhausted, collapsed on her divan, hidden behind a mask, while the cacophonous Hollywood premiere tumbles around her. Cecilia Whittaker-Doe’s “Blue Haven” creates a welcome respite from our first artist, yet we are no closer to being able to indentify our setting. This landscape has clearly recognizable features, such as trees, hills, rocks and sky yet we are ultimately seduced by the soaked color and dreamy washes to accepting the abstract paths and interrelationships as our locality. The doppelganger effect of blue and brown grisaille begins to suggest an even dreamier sense of time or multiple experiences of a place, layered one upon another, expanding our sense of place from the literal to the psychological. Our next artist, Matt Lock, renders a detailed view from some sci-fi arcade or street scene in his "The Truth Revealed Itself in a Mirror", with three main characters about to enter or exit, or possibly start a confrontation. There’s a certain anticipation suggested and our perspective as the viewer is from behind. We feel that we’ve just turned a corner and chanced early upon a scene that is about to erupt. The moment is electric, as our main character has just become distracted by his reflection in a mirror, which reveals him to be Lucifer himself. His buddies urge him forward, while in the distance a couple entering the scene, the male distractedly looking at the female, who, seeing the trio reaches around him in an almost similar vein of anticipation as our main character’s friends. Despite the myriad of details, from the patterns and accessories on the clothing to the quirky signage and wall graphics within the scene’s architecture, we are no closer to identifying this place, yet we are drawn into it compulsively by these details. The artist states that this drawing: “started out with a careless doodle that wasn't supposed to be anything”, thus the crease, which was in the paper before he began drawing, remains as evidence of the evolution of his inspiration and the uncertainty of the process. At Last with Maryjean Viano Crowe’s contact print of a constructed negative, we feel that we might actually be able to identify a place. It is a domestic scene, possibly a kitchen. However we are quickly knocked off balance as we study the composition. It is titled “The Bake Off” and we begin to feel that the setting is more psychological than literal with the image’s composition bisected in the center by a suited 50’s style male figure, separating the two female figures into left and right tableaux. The right hand figure confronts us, the viewer, with a robotic gaze as she mechanically dumps out a Bundt cake. One feels that she is trapped in her domestic cage. The female on the left is engaged with the exiting male, their hands have become an abstract tangle, her gaze is averted and her place is as an ornament topping a fruity desert. All of this floats as a fractured pane of glass within a bottomless black void, that is the emulsified surface of the photographic paper surrounding the image part of the contact print medium. We conclude our search for “place” with the delicate untitled graphite drawing by Melinda Barnes of a hand pointing to or touching a place on a surface as if to say, “You are here”. The small scale of Barnes’ work and careful rendering creates an immediate intimacy and desire to connect to its content. It feels as though she is sending us a sign, message or communication, yet the simplicity and directness of the subject allows for a continuous open-ended projection, on our part, of what that message might be.
Kenny Cole