Artists of fantastic modes have lately come to Chattanooga, joining those who already reside in this region. Chattacon, at its annual art show, hosted 40 artists, featuring largely fantasy science fiction works.
Honored Chattacon artist Alon Clark, who has quite a deep resume, presented the satiric “Alien Bitch” among other works; a complementary work by Chaz Komp and “Ctivuzu Girl” celebrated breaking this gender barrier with respect to these tentallous aliens.
Sadly, the other honored artist, David Deitrick, was unable to attend, although his work adorned the program cover.
Most of the artists showed returning work, along with new pieces, and are undiminished in their appropriation by con visitors. A lot of this work has been discussed in these pages before. Notably, Kevin Dyer has added woven banners alongside his fascinating “Paper Casts.” Star Roberts was awarded for her evolving constructions.
Among less familiar artists, Ray Van Tibure was awarded for his large science fiction painting “Right of Way.” Julia Morgan-Elott’s erotic “Temporary King” and her “Firebird” stamp the sense of freedom that fantasy encourages. Mele Brueck received an amateur award for her interesting anime characters.
Mary Johnson was also awarded for her unique hatboxes. Most impressive, though, was the expansion of jewelry shown. Five artists, including Shannon Trual, Ginger Williams, Brian Davis, Bryan Jones, and Loren Damrsoes, showed a range of gemstones and designs of inspirational value, from earliest times, and these contemporary designs shone.
Monica Cook’s recent opening at UTC’s Cress Gallery of Fine Arts apparently takes its name “Milk Fruit” from a forthcoming stop-action animated film, represented at the show by large photographic outtakes on her wall.
Cook comes from Dalton, Georgia, and after attending the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), moved to New York where she now resides in Brooklyn and teaches at the New York Academy of Art. Her show runs at the Cress until Mar. 19.
The fresh full moon provided a weirdly appropriate ambiance to the show’s opening at the gallery. While some more veteran viewers were elated by the strongly radical imagery, the overwhelming impression taken by younger visitors, including art students, was a dazed confusion, a sense of shock. This complex profusion of imagery is not entirely taken in through casual observation, but, nonetheless, subliminal affects ensue.
Basically, this show consists of three large sculpture works and a few similar ones. There are two stop-action animation videos, “Duece” and “Volley,” and eight large photos in color, the outtakes from the “Milk Fruit” film.
A sense of “mutation” pervades the whole presentation. This remains a difficult word, dragging mostly negative connotations. The constructions themselves are reminiscent of H. R. Giger’s “Necromicon” portfolio in which organic and industrial forms are surreally merged. Gigor’s portfolio also includes the “Alien” monster of cinematic fame.
Surreal art consist of two layers, roughly corresponding to the psychological work of Sigmund Freud and of Carl Jung. The Freudian style is more personal, while the Jungian style is more archetypal. The surreal art object engages the viewers subjectively, resulting in a subliminal affect. Such images reach more deeply than typical awareness. Cook’s work involves both types of surreal imagery.
In his famous essay, “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction,” Walter Benjamin discusses the inherent “shock” effect/affects of cinematic montage. Since images carry a lot of information, the juxtaposition of images overwhelms. Benjamin believes that shock “should be met with a heightened consciousness.”
Clearly, surreal montage likely intensifies shock because of the subliminal qualities of these images. There is a risk of incomprehensibility. The drive required to produce complex assemblages ought to be provided by some aesthetic vision. The parts relate to some kind of whole, to a heightened consciousness.
So, how does one interpret Cook’s vision? Among the fanciful aspects of Cook’s work are scattered poisonous surreal forms. At the end of the video “Duece,” the man/wolf dies violently. There is a Freudian root to this, but it’s aggressively intensified. The ears of corn in “crop duster” also suggest poison. Consider that mutations have causes. Some causes are natural, but others are poisonous.
“The Goat Cart” reaches for the archetypal. Its form resembles “The Chariot” of the Tarot, but the “charioteer” is now a multi-breasted witch with her familiar cat perched next to her, drawn by a goat suggesting devilish symbolism. Next to this is an eviscerated cow…sacrificed to divine entities?—this appears as an appropriative strategy.
Is Cook a satirist? Or…
“Milk Fruit” at UTC Cress Gallery continues until Mar. 19.