We Create our Own Fears: What Scares You in Dusk to Dusk?
After speaking to the gallery guards last week about Dusk to Dusk, this week I decided to ask the gallery’s visitors about which piece scared them more than any other in the Dusk to Dusk exhibit. I spoke to students from various grades, and received some interesting feedback about the exhibit.
Erin Holahan ’15 pointed out the painting by James Aldridge entitled The Gathering, 2010 as the piece which scares her the most. The image of nature is very pretty but the fact that skulls seem to “pop up everywhere” overwhelms her and takes away from its beauty. The skulls “seem to be watching the audience, challenging them. Some skulls have red lines shooting out of their eyes, as if they were shooting out of the painting.” The skulls seem to be taking over the painting, and she feels that there are almost two images being squished into one painting: a beautiful one of nature, and a scary, unnerving one of floating skulls watching your every move.
Kait Bosch ‘13 also pointed to Aldridge’s painting as one which unnerved her. With seemingly harmless silhouettes of animals surrounded by bright colors and cascading flowers, the painting seems happy at first, but then she noticed the skulls with blood coming out of their eye sockets, and that the animals were bleeding, or dying. However, the piece which scared her most was the painting “Untitled” by Chinese artist Yang Shaobin. Shaobin was a police officer
during times of immense political upheaval in China, and played a part in causing social and political agony. The artist realized that he needed to stop the horrendous acts which he was involved in, and make art to educate the rest of the world about what was happening in China. Kait chose this piece without knowing the history behind it; however, once she heard about its history, it made her feel even more uncomfortable to view the painting. The fact that the man depicted is armless and blurry caused the beginning of these uncomfortable feelings. The blurriness makes her think of what she can’t actually see, and her imagination runs wild trying to fill in the blanks. “You can already see that the person is in pain, but the fact that he is so blurry makes me think that he is in even more pain than I can see. If the image was less blurry it wouldn’t scare me as much.” This piece reminds her of supernatural monsters and demons which can change shape to be each person’s worst nightmare.
Kait also commented on the video Dusk and Dawn, 2009 by Dutch artist Erwin Olaf. “The combination of the baby crying and the mothers’ omniscient singing strikes two places in me which are so different that I don’t know how to feel.” There is a paradox between the lullaby and the crying baby; the crying makes her feel uncomfortable, while the lullaby calms her. She found it odd that the crying baby irked her, because it is natural to hear a crying baby and instinctively want to take care of it, not be uncomfortable because of it. Another aspect of the video which scared her was the calm silence, and the fact that the man’s sawing became so repetitive that it was calming. She compared the film to scary movies where there is a calm and you know that the bad guy is about to strike, but you don’t know when. “Whenever anything is happy and calm in a scary movie, you know that there is about to be an explosion, so I was waiting for the man to go crazy… It’s what’s to be expected in a Scary Movie…” She did jump when the frames fell off of the wall, even though she knew that there had to be some sort of crash after the eerie calm. We lead ourselves to think of something even scarier than what is shown before us.
After this interesting conversation with Kait, Karen Hecht ’14 visited the gallery and I was able to hear about her views on the exhibit. She found Marcel Dzama’s diorama Welcome to the land of the bat, 2008 to be the piece which scared her the most. It touched on her memories of her childhood hero, Winnie the Pooh, the cute bear who was always singing, always had a jar of honey, and was always happy. Here, Pooh Bear is depicted laying on the ground, dead and bleeding, while a swarm of unnaturally large white bats floating overhead as if to show off their kill. Karen commented that “it doesn’t even look like Winnie the Pooh, so it leads me to think about what happened to him to make him look like he does here.” Taking a very common image, especially on tied so strongly to childhood, and changing how it looks as drastically as Dzama did here, is unnerving to everyone. You can’t help but argue that it shouldn’t look like that, and then you are forced into questioning why it does. It is the place that your mind wanders to while answering that question that scares you most.
You create your own fears. Something might be scary or unnerving at first, but it seems that what scares people most is where their mind wanders to when they interpret each piece in Dusk to Dusk. We all have certain pieces which scare us more than others, but it is our minds that create the scariest ideas about each of these pieces.
I encourage you to visit the Samek Art Gallery’s exhibit Dusk to Dusk: Unsettled, Unraveled, Unreal to explore your fears.