Dead Ringer, at the Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, Rhode Island
June 7- July14,2019
Curated by Elizabeth Duffy
At first glance, the artists in Dead Ringer construct familiar objects and images: a bikini,a brick, a faceted glass vase. On closer inspection, an undercurrent of disquiet andhidden meanings emerge. The artists in Dead Ringer ask viewers to disassemble their works,to consider both what they think they see and the realities and epiphanies that come withcloser looking. Calm and order are vastly overrated in this moment of #MeToo,fake newsand inexorable cruelty. Each of these artists makes works that are indelible, jaggedly smartand timely, looking at our moment and refusing to sugar-coat its anxieties.
Beth Brandon prints with thermochromatic pigments—they change color with temperature. In her mutating textile Ergot on Rye/St.Anthony’sFire, fungi appear and fade as they warmand cool. Now ergot is used to relieve migraine headaches, postpartum hemorrhages,and boredom with reality, but during the Middle Ages it led to outbreaks of food poisoning.
Brandon’s work “investigates the methods, mystical and scientific, that we use to explainand manage our ecological situation.” Her textile transforms before our eyes and in ourhands, reminding viewers the comforts of food and domestic space are precarious and influx.
Anna McNeary’s apparel installation transports us to an elegant Chelsea boutique.The rack’s spare holdings soon reveal messages about emotional labor—phrases that put recipientsof care at ease. McNeary asks viewers to try on her pieces. This becomes an awkwardand playful dance—a collaboration accompanied by the hum of text sewn and printed into the fabrics. Brian Miller also uses printed text in his work. His photographs appear to capture spiders silently weaving webs to capture prey. In fact, these webs and arachnids are hand crafted by Miller using text from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. Their menacing qualities have new meaning in this moment when the paralyzing of ideas feels part of our culture. Cheryl Yun’s designer bags and bikinis’ fabrics are printed with media images of school shootings, bombings and terrorist attacks. Can the numbing effects of shoppinghelp us navigate the turmoil we are confronted with each day we read the news? Media culture is part of many of the artists’ interests and process in this exhibition.CarolynMarsden’s ProfilePictures and Joy Garnett’s Boom and Bust series’ images are sourced from the internet and translated through cropping and material transformation.Marsden’s embroideries of men’s selfies have an eerie voyeurism and awkward heroism whose flash-bulbimmediacy is slowed down by her methodical method, allowing the viewer to pause in a worldwhere swiping is the go-to method. A different kind of flash produces Garnett’s Boom and
Bust paintings, which might be mistaken for fireworks or manic flower arrangements froma distance. But Garnett’s source material is photography of military events, their darkgrounds gushing toxic concoctions of ebullient color. Bradley Wester also sources imagery from military events in his Queering the Military series, events never intended for public eyes. Wester transforms photographs of hazing rituals by British military cadets,making tantalizing images that reveal the mutability of gender and reminding us of the role play we all engage in. The feminizing of men is supposed to be a humiliation or at best, comic relief. But Wester re-contextualizes the masculine/ feminine dichotomy and uses the disco ballto fragment binaries and draw us toward these images of soldiers not fighting.Shari Mendelson’s work may lull us back to quiet contemplation if it were not for the realization that these faceted vases are made of hundreds of pieces of plastic rubbish, bringing a segment of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch right into the gallery.J.MyszkaLewis also upsets the familiar, making sturdy bricks and manhole covers elegant using meticulous processes including cross stitch and flocking. All these works make us question the foundations we stand upon, whatwe save and protect, and make us look again.
With thanks to the Roger Williams University School of Humanities, Arts and Education and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.
Dead Ringer Press
Christy Nadalin, “ A Different Kind of Show,” The Bristol Phoenix, June 6, 2019, p. 1
Maynard, Elizabeth, “Unravelling our Truths: Dead Ringer,” Art New England, May/June 2019, p. 80.
The Must List: 10 Essential events happening this month, Bay Magazine, June 25, 2019
Roger Williams University Article : Julia Rubin
Options Magazine, Abigail Nilsson https://www.optionsri.org/post/another-look-at-dead-ringer-exhibit?fbclid=IwAR2sXBukSUbLVnR-Cw4kcrJOh6zaicacvxCvnlbH6JJkCyJlMceHbvYj5vk
Rhode Island Public Radio: Scott MacKay's Commentary: Bristol's 234th Independence Day Celebration Is Still Relevant
Rhode Island Public Radio: Local All Things Considered - In Bristol, Controversy Casts Shadow Over Pride Month
Rhode Island Public Radio: Artscape: Bristol Art Museum Controversy
Providence Journal Alison Pushed Off Board, Linda Borg
Bristol Phoenix 2
NBC 10, Bristol art show draws dozens of supporters despite backlash, ASHLEY CULLINANE
ABC 6, Controversial art exhibit opens in Bristol, Jordan Mazza
NBC 10, 'Dead Ringer' art exhibit in RI to feature controversial photos, TONY GUGLIOTTA
Providence Journal-front page: Controversy over exhibit roils Bristol Art Museum, Linda Borg
WPRO The News with Gene Valicenti. Conservative a.m. talk radio. Bradley Wester interview:
WPRO The News with Gene Valicenti. Conservative a.m. talk radio. Alison DeKleine interview
WPRO The News with Gene Valicenti. Conservative a.m. talk radio. Elizabeth Duffy interview