Curiosities at Non-Fiction
Words and Images By Kayla Goggin
Last Friday night saw the opening of Non-Fiction Gallery’s very first juried show: Curious Deviations. The show deals with the theme of the uncanny in art, “both the familiar and strange, feelings of tension, eeriness, or disquiet.” Juried by the four new, young artists (three painters and one photographer) who assumed ownership of the gallery in early July, the accepted submissions are a wildly diverse offering of media, ranging from both abstract and representational sculpture to conceptual assemblages to painting and collage. The scope of artists represented is refreshing (the show is populated by works from artists across the nation, not just those based locally in Savannah) and Non-Fiction’s choice of theme, the darker side of which they absolutely have not shied away from, is invigorating.
Upon entering the space, it is immediately clear that this is a very carefully curated show–this is not to say there is an air of timid self-consciousness, but rather a bold selfawareness. Heather MacRae-Trulson, a Non-Fiction partner, shared with me what a unique curatorial challenge the show presented: a national appeal for submissions via message boards and social networking resulted in a wave of over 150 submissions from roughly 50 artists. These were eventually pared down to the 27 in the final show, chosen intentionally for their highly individualized artistic voices. Gallery Partner Sam Bryer emphasized the careful consideration the jury put into creating a conceptual environment with the artwork, coalescing with a later discussion I had with MacRae-Trulson about the importance of the relationships between groups of works in the space. Bryer said, “Every piece responds to something else. Similarly, the uncanny isn’t uncanny unless it is compared to something else.”
Bearing these ideas in mind, I spent some time exploring the space on my own. Jill O’Brien and Trish Igo’s Hoarder is one of the stand-out pieces, its taxidermic buck head jutting out from a wall mainly populated by photographs, collages, and paintings. It is a jarring interruption in an otherwise highly lyrical organization of artworks; its presence is disturbing, thoughtful and necessary as an opportunity for the patron to experience the uncanny rather than merely observe. An object made from what was once a living creature, Hoarder facilitates the response that is at the core of the concept of the uncanny: simultaneous repulsion and attraction. O’Brien and Igo’s shiny, pastel colored tumors both invite and disgust.
Nearby, Logan Rollins’ All is Fair is quietly placed with Kevin O’Malley’s sculpture First and Last Breath in a clever pairing evocative of the uncanny experience of body trauma, either in the case of loss of limb or mutation. Jon Taylor’s Sore approaches the same theme in a more tactile, visceral way–one can almost feel the abrasion on one’s skin, the suggestion of a festering wound becomes a commanding element eliciting a base impulse in the vein of Georges Bataille to inspect closely while cringing from revulsion.
Throng Kim’s Disco Mind, Zhenjie Dong’s Pixie and the Red Cross Society of China and Kenzie Jarman’s Ladylike deal with themes of mystery and the eeriness of untold identity. Jarman’s piece seems to offer some nebulous feminist commentary, perhaps referencing Hannah Wilke’s Starification Object Series with its similar chewed gum motif obscuring the identity or beauty of a woman.
It is my opinion that this is one of the most conceptually successful shows I have yet to see in Savannah’s independent galleries, however you’ll have the opportunity to judge for yourself this Friday (Sept. 6) at the closing reception from 6-10pm. Four winners will be chosen to have their own show in December at Non-Fiction. This is a must-see stop on Friday’s Art March; it is rich, diverse, and will definitely command your imagination.