The concept for the B.W.R exhibit began as a simple appreciation of graphic design: the stark contrast of black and white, subtle grays achieved in skillful etchings, red striking a bold emphasis. Over the year, this concept became a metaphor for life’s experiences. “BLACK.WHITE.REaD: Journey Through the Maze.”
While collecting art work for various exhibits, friends shared dramatic stories that forced changes on their lives and, at times, threatened their future. I was saddened, horrified, and sympathetic. These personal experiences frustrated projects and brought challenges that posed risk. Deciding how to proceed conjured fear when faced with loss of employment while undergoing medical treatment or life without familiar possessions after a disaster like Katrina. All unexpected changes—cancer, suicide, divorce, flood, homelessness—render us dumbfounded. BLACK.WHITE.REaD, floating in my subconscious, became the metaphor defining this exhibit.
Waking to a decent day, one hears spirit-dampening news of war, earthquake, financial depression, or similar devastation. We empathize, yet distance blesses us with separation. An unanticipated personal crisis, however, demands intervention. A carefully constructed nest, when twisted from its foundation, portends an uncertain future.
Similar events are perceived differently by a society’s citizens. Joy and horror are juxtaposed; beauty and ugliness co-exist. How does one process devastating news and continue to live? The constants of the sun and moon rising and setting give thought to the constants of the rise and fall of cultures, institutions, and individuals.
When lamenting “Why me?,” one can accept an honest answer, “Why not?” While we journey through life's maze, we cannot predict what may be around the corner. When offered options, we can only make an arbitrary choice. Man's body, incorporating the soul, seeks healing whether the results are positive or negative. Some find solace in spiritual institutions, art, literature, and music, while others seek transcendence through food, drugs, or alcohol.
Often we hear “It's black and white,” “You knew what you married,” “You signed the contract.” These comments isolate rather than protect delicate personalities. From the Sayings of Lao Tzu comes this wisdom: “Who is there that can make muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will gradually become clear of itself.” A path, well-tread, is not made by a single soul; guidance or a shared experience can provide comfort as one struggles with the unfolding human story.
As an artist, I am amazed by color studies, and here I incorporate the metaphor. There is no BLACK. Extending pigments turns tar-based blacks to blue, bone-based black to brown. Choosing WHITE can be an impossible task when pitted against hundreds of choices. RED pigment demands attention, whereas “Read” is abstract. Our eyes perceive and absorb what we choose to comprehend.
BLACK.WHITE.REaD: Journey through the Maze probes our increasingly complex society and, while there are no proffered answers, artists use various media to express the adventure of a road well-traveled and the over-stimulated selection of choices permeating our existence.
Cecilia Rossey, 2012
What do curators do? The moniker comes from the Latin, curare, “take care,” and that is precisely what Cecilia Rossey, Guest Curator, has done in assembling and contextualizing the remarkable visual and psychological experiences exhibited in BLACK. WHITE. REaD. Curators are charged with interpreting the exhibitions they create, which Rossey has adeptly managed from the very inception of the exhibition she has chronicled here, allowing viewers to ‘journey through the maze’ of the lives of the artists she has come to know.
The courage to create (because of, or in spite of life’s vagaries), the bravery to produce difficult work, and the generosity of spirit, time and authenticity each of these artists brings forward is both dazzling and humbling. These makers are fully engaged in the process of living each day of their lives, using virtually any medium or tool to wrestle with the ambiguities, injustices, disappointments, joys and losses that ultimately result in great character, strength and poignant, non-verbal knowing.
Curators also oversee the on-site installation of exhibitions. Given the challenging and graphically powerful nature of the artworks that Rossey took great care to offer, it forced us to listen to what these extraordinary, heartfelt images had to say, and give each of them the time and space to do just that. Curators also learn from other curators, and for this revelatory adventure we extend deep appreciation to Cecilia Rossey. While curators ‘take care,’ viewers must ‘take time’ to ponder the markers these 22 artists have placed on your pathway. Your scrutiny will be rewarded.
Trudi Ludwig Johnson
Curator, Dadian Gallery