The Unreal October 31 - December 1
Our dreams combine the ordinary and the seemingly nonsensical, where rules of physics and logic do not apply. Artists exploring this realm depict remembered fantasies or create new ones from their waking imaginations. Their work is a distortion of reality, making everyday objects and environments alien and magical. In photography, optical illusions and modern digital tools have allowed artists to create new visual worlds that blur the line between the real and fantastic. For The Unreal, The Kiernan Gallery seeks images that explore the surreal and otherworldly.
About the Juror:
Ken Rosenthal received a BA in still photography from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993. His work is represented by KLOMPCHING Gallery, Etherton Gallery, Gerald Peters Gallery, Dolby Chadwick Gallery, and De Santos Gallery. Rosenthal's photographs are in many public and private collections internationally including but not limited to Southwest and Mexican Photography Collection, which recently established a major collection of his work.
Since 2002 his work has been featured in more than 150 solo and group exhibitions internationally. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Centro Cultural Recoleta, El Cabildo de la Ciudad de Cordoba, Espacio Foto, Etherton Gallery, Wall Space Gallery, De Santos Gallery, and KLOMPCHING Gallery. Rosenthal's first monograph, Ken Rosenthal: Photographs 2001-2009 was released in 2011.
As a child, I had a recurring nightmare. In these dreams, I was lying in bed and staring through my doorway at the built-in linen cabinet in the hallway. Slowly the doors to the cabinet would swing open to reveal a small but menacing monster covered in white fur and baring its long sharp fangs. I would wake up screaming, and my parents would come in my room to calm me. My father would then open the linen cabinet to show me that there was indeed no monster, and they would then return to their room down the hall. As I laid back down to try to fall back to sleep, I would again stare at the cabinet. The cabinet would again swing open, and the monster would climb out. I would try to scream, but no sound would come out. At this point I’d finally awaken from a dream within a dream. What makes this oft experienced dream so potent for me is not the unrealistic element in the dream (the monster), but rather the well recognized setting of my childhood home.
As an artist whose work straddles the line between fantastical and the familiar, I embraced the request to jury this exhibition. I have never been terribly interested in work that is a complete departure from reality. In jurying The Unreal, I was looking for artwork that was firmly rooted in the real world while simultaneously depicting or alluding to something that was a bit off or, even, otherworldly. It was quite the challenge to select one image from the many hundreds submitted to receive the Juror’s Choice Award, as a number of photographs captured my attention. Deb Schwedhelm’s lyrical yet edgy piece, To The Surface, depicts an ambiguous in tenor scene of nightswimming, and is viewed at once from above and below the surface of a body of water. The quizzical works of both Nicholena Moon and Kelly Wrage fuse dark humor with a cinematic view of domesticity tinged with the supernatural. I initially read the lush black and white abstractions of Eleanor Brown as a merging of flesh and flora. They are luminous, unsettlingly quiet nocturnes of a snow dredged landscape. Ultimately, I found myself most captivated by the work of Emma Powell. Her elegantly crafted tea-toned cyanotypes are timeless, yet distinctly contemporary. Powell’s psychodramas embody the sense of ambiguity and uncertainty with what is playing out that I associate with the dream state. Her image Bear, which I selected for the Juror’s Choice Award, asks more questions than it provides answers. The female figure in the image appears confident yet vulnerable, trusting but guarded. Bear is an image rife with dualities, and one that I simply cannot stop thinking about or looking at.
Nearly one hundred twenty-five artists submitted work for this exhibition. The nature of the theme led to work that was often bold and very personal in nature. I would like to thank everyone who made a submission for sharing their photographs with me as well as with the audience who will view these images on the gallery walls, online, and on the printed page.