The latest exhibition at the Robert L. Ringel Gallery in the Stewart Center gives new meaning to the notion that art is weird. The collection, titled BFSD (Big Fat Scary Deal), which runs from now through December 7th, is devoted to the odd, strange, morbid, and unsettling. While each work may appear visually attractive on the surface, they all conceal disturbing subject matters or themes and aim to encourage the viewer to question the aesthetic standards of what art should be while examining the cryptic aspects of life.
Composed of the work of twenty artists, Big Fat Scary Deal is the result of a nation-wide search for entries that embodied the fantastically grotesque and bizarre. The submissions came in a variety of forms, including digital media, traditional modes like paintings, and physical displays or sculptures. The final entries were chosen collaboratively by Elizabeth K. Mix, an Associate Professor of Art History at Butler University, Tess Cortes, Coordinator of the Robert and Elaine Stein Galleries at Wright State University, and Craig Martin, Director of Purdue University Galleries. Each unsettling piece comes together to form an offbeat exhibition of the work of creative individuals from across the country that span mediums and topics.
Although some pieces may initially appear to be otherworldly, many illustrate the horrific elements present in everyday life. Lindsay Taylor’s Ladies, an oil painting depicting nearly identical women that smile more and more unnaturally, psychotically taps into the human tendency to be self-conscious and “the “uncomfortable vulnerability that lies underneath our conscious thought.” Another, made of gouache on paper entitled Harbinger of Late Winter Day’s Dusk by Jave Yoshimoto, initially appears very colorful and attractive as it mixes a traditional Japanese style with pop culture. Upon closer inspection, however, one can witness the destruction caused by the tsunami that struck Japan and the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, drawing upon the horrors of natural disasters.
Some pieces also reveal and tap into sources of personal and emotional terror. Kelsey Hall’s Hear (Here) No, a canvas of mixed mediums that depicts a blurred and hidden face with only an ear clearly defined, was created to reveal the shame and secrecy that accompanied her struggle with an eating disorder. Likewise, Amber Prouty’s series of altered photographs of censored women depict her mother’s struggle with domestic abuse.
Still other entries tap into the stuff of nightmares and primal sources of fear. Kristen Gallerneaux’s display of plaster dogs entitled Sentinels (Plaster Dogs) were made with dirt from the sites of supposed poltergeist hauntings and call to mind the ghostly implications. Jake Reller’s stone lithography entitled Eidolon taps into visual deception to create a monster that lurks in the dark out of a ram, a rock pile, and a moth. Regardless of theme, each work casts its own unique, haunting spell.
At its core, Big Fat Scary Deal taps into the horrors of the world and the imagination of the human mind by going beyond traditional art aesthetics. It can be viewed Monday through Saturday from the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free and the gallery is open to the public.