I’ll begin with someone else’s words, better than my own:
“Put terrors where no knowledge is,
Said the old cartographers,
Fear comets, and serpents that swallow ships.
Keep away from the edge of the known.
So they showed whirlpools, and dragons in the margins,
And giants and terrible winds.
Those old maps are very decorative, quaint, desirable for framing.
They were right, though. There are some things you can’t do anything
You do fall into the whirlpool sometimes, you do get hit by a comet,
You get blown by a black wind out to the edge of the known world,
Slammed against a brick-wall question, and no answer.
A woman was crying as if she couldn’t stop.
I listened, but I didn’t know who lived there.
Somebody’s bad luck, I said; like that.
I watched an ambulance at the hospital door.
They were being very careful with the stretcher,
It was small, it was white, it must have been a child.
Somebody’s bad luck.
The morning paper, under a big blurred picture
Of a man with his face turned aside, says . . .
No one I know.”
On Edge is an exhibit running from February 8th to the 24th at the EDGE Contemporary Art gallery. EDGE is a non-profit co-op out of Lakewood. The current gallery is composed of select local contemporary art, curated by Adam Gildar.
Mr. Gildar, the owner and director of Gildar Gallery in Denver, is focused on the same goals EDGE Gallery is: collaborative exchange of art concentrating on uniqueness within the often inconsistent world of contemporary art.
It’s an interesting manifesto, for lack of a better word. It’s unlikely any artist sets out to be in-authentic, or to be a non-individual – by this I mean that no artist seeks to be a corporate slave, the creator of Live, Laugh, Love canvases to be sold in your local super-chain. And yet…that’s what happens, isn’t it? How many people do you know who have sold out? How many people do you see and know who you would describe with these words: They don’t care.
It’s a problem. It’s also everywhere. People don’t go to art galleries unless they’re buying, or buying in, it seems. The art has to be decorative, desirable for framing. That’s what you read, what’s implied by so many gallery reviews. You have to be in line with the ideology that’s prompting the spirit of the gallery’s territory. That leaves a thin line for the artists to walk: please yourself at the risk of angering the Art Scene, the Art Critics, and anyone else who open their mouths to comment.
This problem is illustrated in this comic strip. Life, and therefore art, is much more nuanced and complicated than we’ve been led to believe. Is it because we can’t understand nuance as a child does? Or is it because we all look for ways to simplify everything around us?
When you’re a young creative person, adults seem so mundane and terrible. It’s as if they think that if they act dead, then death never will come for them. If they just don’t care, then nothing can hurt what they care about. The young fear the old, and that fear manifests as contempt. “I will never do that,” the youth say, “I will always be true to myself. I will never cry in public.”
In the end, we all end up together. A bit of dirt over a wood box. A stone with a name some ancestor gave us.
Jade Phillips’s piece is gorgeous. It’s human and unnerving, discombobulated, piercing, and uncoupled; a piece of a human being. It’s a reflection of the questions we have to face, the boiling wretch of emotions we all are, somewhere underneath our frames. I’ve never seen Phillips’s face before, but I feel I know the eyes are looking back at me.
Each of us is the center of our own world, for good or bad. We can extend our borders, make room for an auxiliary soul, throw our center off-kilter for someone else, or we can take and take and take from those we love, until there’s nothing but abstract waves left. Phillips captures a soul and has put it on canvas. The eyes and smile gaze just above my left shoulder, towards someone else: no one I know.
Contemporary art is the same: it depends on a centering, a focus on the audience and the consumption, a kind of perverse harvest of what’s around us. What use is
Art has become increasingly a machine, a thing designed to work towards one goal: Productivity.
Productivity is really a codeword for Profit, especially in contemporary art. What is prolific, what is productive, if not making money? This is true, especially in Denver. What’s another art gallery, if not an opportunity to decorate a dining room wall?
“More than machinery, we need humanity,” says Chaplin.
How can we capture our own confusion and put it in a gallery?
Pierman’s entry in the gallery is captivating. The feeling of being confused, weary, and caught between an urban and a natural setting sticks in your mind. The vibrant colors of the fake statue and the muted colors of a real woman, a real wife, friend, person.
Hail to the Chief! secures a moment that is increasingly important: a moment of empathy. The instant in the photograph is a split second to throw your own emotions into. The games and (very real) victims of politics are not in focus, but the sigh is: the moment of exhaling, prompted by a listlessness wrought by constant pressure to conform.
Pierman’s work is exquisite. The slight gaze of the observer finds itself in fields and keyholes not far from Denver. He’s around. He’s around here. He’s one of the names you see in print or a face you see in a grocery store. If you can’t see this picture in person, look into his website.
The works here in On Edge aren’t designed to make money. They’re designed to make a connection. They exist to link the viewer to a spot on an internal map they never knew existed. The gallery is a person you’ve never met before standing on the side of the road, holding a mirror.
The world increasingly seems to be run by no one you know, some child somewhere acting on a whim. Our bills continue to demand more and more from us, like a fickle toddler crying for attention. Art is not an escape, but an extension of our individual worlds inside all of us. It’s a communication, a kind gesture, a gallery to cry in.
EDGE Gallery is currently showing work from the brink of the known world. I cannot show all the images here, nor do I want to. You must go yourself.
Hurry. The edge of the world will move soon.
I’ll leave you with a few more words from the same poet we started with:
“When I was young, I was the center of my world,
And said from where I sat, serenely, greenly curled,-
Give up, go home and die, no one would care,-
To old, gross, fat, sad, ugly hopeful people everywhere.
But each one was the center of his world, and cared,
And was not old or ugly; but I was sad, I cared,
When I grew up, whether or not they died,
And what they hoped for, and to whom they cried.”
The verses of poetry included are taken from section IX of the poem “Map of My Country” by John Holmes. All pictures were provided by the artists.
EDGE Gallery is located at 7001 W Colfax, Lakewood, CO 80214. The gallery is open Fridays from 6 to 10pm, as well as Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5pm. EDGE is currently seeking new members; they are looking for applications from serious experimental and contemporary artists interested in pushing the boundaries of their medium and/or subject matter. Please visit http://edgeart.org for application details.