REVIEW In a festival full of storytelling, Piccolo Spoleto’s “A Long Time Ago” exhibit at the City Gallery displayed works that ranged from the literal to the imaginative, using tropes and occasionally whimsy to evoke our childlike wonder for stories.
“While some [of the artists] draw from their own personal narrative, others capture motifs from stories and folklore that have been passed down for generations,” reads the description just inside the doors to the exhibit, curated by Hirona Matsuda.
Much of the art, produced by nine local artists, depicts people, animals and nature in fairytale and folkloreesque scenes. Becca Barnet showed taxidermy critters straight out of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” or other Roald Dahl tales, and Lisa Shimko’s works consisted of blatant fairytale tropes of red apples and roses, golden geese and bears in red hoods.
Baird Hoffmaire’s collection of works may not have dwelled so much in the fairytale narratives seen in the other works; the outstanding “Suburban Lycanthropy” shows a man in suburbia howling at the moon, its colors and style evocative of American regionalist painters and the strong tradition of American folklore, and reminiscent of popular stories of gruesome monsters that live amongst us.
Seth Corts’ collection of pen and ink compositions mixed history with folklore, with President Lincoln in “Lincoln’s Eye,” a girl with an wolf friend in a dark forest in “You Are Not Alone,” and a clear play off Rapunzel with “Come Back and Kiss Me.”
Artist Xin Lu also explored cultural folklore and narratives, showing several works of Asian pagodas and temples on mottled yellow, orange and vermillion backgrounds, with constellations carefully and delicately sketched in the sky with ink.
Not all of the art is representational, Trever Webster’s mixed media works in acrylic and ink, plus the handmade books from his “Accordian” collection, are re-constructed narratives, the mechanics of a written story sans the narrative itself.
Recalling our childhood flights of fancy and hours spent enthralled by stories hundreds of years old, “A Long Time Ago” presents a collection of accessible art for the collector or the tourist, adult or child.
Rebecca Seel is a Newhouse School graduate student.