“Glass, Cinder and Thorns”, the most recent exhibit at 323East Gallery in Royal Oak, Michigan takes us on a trip of darkness and whimsy through the world of fairytales, exploring how these stories seep into the consciousness of young girls as they develop into women.
Curator and contributing artist April Segedi, sets the tone of the exhibit with “The Story Keeper”, a charming yet disturbing mixed media piece of a white rabbit donning black lace and antique key pendants with large insects stuck to its body. The rabbit walks the fragile line that “balances between this world and the world of Fey, silently locking away the whispers from dreams.”
Much of the art in this exhibit reflects on the evil lurking behind the innocent stories of our childhood. As Segedi puts it “what Disney failed to tell you is that the mermaid dies, multiple suitors defiled Sleeping Beauty and the wolf ate Grandma.”
Tina Tourikis unveils this type of hypocrisy with her photo, “Cinderalla’s Disguise”, where Cinderella is a faceless figure holding a crown above her missing head. She becomes invisible, her identity overtaken by the domestic space surrounding her. Charlamaine Olivia’s “Housekeeper” also comments on traditional expectations of domesticity. Her mixed media painting on wood shows a young women in a provocative pose, her head filled with traditional feminine symbols of ribbons and bows, her arms loaded full of storybook houses, bringing up feelings of conflict and oppression as young women struggle with their sense of identity.
Like the female protagonists in popular fairytales, most of the images of women featured in this exhibit are young and beautiful (not an ugly duckling to be found). How they differ is through an expressed sexuality and mental energy. You see semi-nudity, fishnet stockings and suggestive oral images, shaded with an air of violence, sadness, confusion and in some cases rage. Jessica Dalva wrestles with these issues with “Following the Pack”, a mixed media piece telling the tale of revenge of a survivor of violence (wearing fishnet stockings) stalking the wolves that devoured her two sisters. Crystal Mielcarek’s “Inside the Belly of the Beast,” features the victim as powerless, trapped inside the bloody viscera of her oppressor. Audrey Pongracz’s print “Gooses Geeses”, exposes a young woman in an overtly sexual pose holding her precious golden egg, protecting the sacred and intimate darkness within.
Works by Kelly Vivanco, Marina Finna, Bee Harris and Megan Frau contain images that embody the organic dreams of fairytales with heads of women morphing with the animal kingdom. Edith Lebeau’s “Hamadryad III” is a moving surreal expression of sadness, beauty and intimacy, a hybrid of a woman and a tree, where one cannot survive without the other. Branches come out of her head exposing a few blooms, but dewdrop tears of sorrow dot her flesh.
Featuring over 15 female artists from Detroit and around the globe, “Glass, Cinder and Thorns” gives us a provocative take on living happily ever after, suggesting that this dream is constantly reshaped by a collage of mixed cultural metaphors.
(Images: Lost Fish, Red Mermaid, 23 x 50 cm., Framed, hand signed and numbered print; Jessica Dalva, Following the Pack, 22.5 x 11 x 2.5 in. , Sculpy, hand-dyed rabbit fur, fabric, birch twigs, dried plants & "snow"; Edith Lebeau, Hamadryad III , 20 x 24 in., acrylic on canvas; Courtesy of the artists and 323 East Gallery)