Rose M Barron’s Multitude of Madonnas: Twisted faith, An Unexpected Gander at a ‘’Modern Madonna”
Whitespace’s small annex gallery, Whitespec, was transformed into a medieval grotto for the opening of Rose M Barron’s Multitude of Madonnas exhibition [May 31-July 6, 2013]. With bizarre drags of gothic melodies on repeat in the background, a holy Madonna juice concoction at the bar, and a living Saint, Virgin Mary, and gold-painted Angel guiding the crowds around the house grounds and garden—the evening was an overall spectacle.
Barron’s photographs are heavy with unexpected religious imagery, bypassing the conventional bounds of faith and spirituality. The series zeroes in on the Virgin Mary—the most visually iconic Christian female depicted in the canon of art history as quintessentially pure, beautiful, and virtuous. Barron’s photographs emphasize, as well as redefine, the role and concept underpinning a woman’s symbolic existence. A historical tone remains interwoven in Barron’s work, seen specifically in her elaborately hand-constructed sets that are lushly furnished, and her ironically superficial use of fruits, fabric, and exposure of skin. Each piece distorts the anticipated image of a godly woman with the fusion of an absurd contemporary context. Womanhood is challenged and brought under an entertaining light of scrutiny. Barron’s depiction of modern women communicates that females today confront demanding societal expectations of sexuality while struggling to balance financial success, independence, and family.
Meandering through the exhibition on opening night, one could locate many of Rose M Barron’s subjects roaming amongst the rest—extremely candid individuals (often friends) with beautiful quirks and mesmerizing imperfections. The captivating tension between the realistic qualities of Barron’s work in conjunction with the idealized sacred religious notions drives Multitude of Madonnas.
ATHICARDS by ATHICA
Pick a card, any card…Imagine shuffling a deck of cards while simultaneously sifting through a variegated assortment of minimized artworks. The eclectic playing cards created by ATHICA (Athens Institute of Contemporary Art), cleverly-named ATHICARDS, presents an alternative approach to exposing an aggregate of 54 local artists’ work to the public, and in a seemingly simple but impressionable way. A deck of cards becomes a portable, visual roulette of imagery in the form of a hand-held exhibition, with the corresponding exhibition of original art currently on view at ATHICA [May 25-June 23, 2013].
Each ATHICARD differs in style and concept, sending out unexpected, personalized messages while using a range of expressive symbolism and abstract imagery. For example, from graphic images of satellites, campers, and bridges seen on Jennifer Manzella’s card, the three of diamonds, to the ethereal image of a crowned “K” on Rinne Allen’s king of diamonds. Lawson Grice’s card, the six of diamonds, is an illustration of what appears to be a masked lucha libre character in a business suit, with jewels swirling and joining his oppositional reflections. Lauren Benbrook’s two of diamonds card seems minimalist and blatant, yet grapples with a profound notion: Benbrook’s helix-shaped snake form transforms into a strand of DNA. Justin Plakas’s graphic collage on the two of spades, two irredescent women undulate like mountain ranges across the card space, while splitting the composition into a valley composed of varying black and white cross-hatched patterns.
The concept of a deck of cards is turned upside down, leaving only the consistency of the four suits to ground the viewer. In some instances, the suit inspires the image on the card’s face—like in Terry Rowlett’s king of clubs—on others, the image eludes its suit completely. This mind game can only be the trickery of the waggish joker captured, red handed, in Kristin Karch’s black and white photograph. Karch’s card simultaneously reveals and hides a friendly and comical joker; he is still the epitome of a mischievous jester but now modernized by his button down. Perhaps in opposition, the raw Rorschach-like black and white image, done by Amy Hairston on the seven of spades, provokes an unsettling emotional reaction. From laughter to fear, from two to ace, the ATHICARDS exhibit is sure to produce a full house. ATHICARDS are housed in a small plastic carrying case, and can be purchased online for $20, part of a fundraiser to benefit ATHICA.
–Elizabeth Visscher and Dasha Vzorov
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