Altered Aesthetics has picked an irresistible premise for one of two shows currently up at the gallery. Who hasn't had dreams that the universe may be more malevolent than you thought? Anxiety Dreams, curated by Tonja Torgerson and Ellen Mueller, features the work of nine artists offering their take on this familiar expression of subconscious angst in the form of photographs, paintings, mixed media, and video.
References to childhood abound in nearly all of the pieces on display. If any thread connects the pieces in the show, it's that one. J. M. Culver's "Altered States," a huge charcoal and acrylic piece, may be the most successful at conveying the sense of vulnerability and tenuousness of both childhood and the dream world. An old man in slippers and a little girl, a window and a broken teetering chair, the elements are simple but evocative.
Alex Kuno's mixed media canvases go so far as to mimic the bright, colorful aesthetic of childhood with chalk, crayons, and watercolor. They could be out of a children's book, albeit a disturbing one. The artist depicts children in various states of distress discovering parts of a corpse, for instance, or fleeing across a stormy heath.
Andy Sturdevant's "Chiefs" series may be the sole exception. His work addresses a decidedly grownup fear. Sturdevant sets hand-painted plates (the kind you might see in your grandmother's kitchen) against a backdrop of faded wallpaper. The twist? The plates depict CEOs of major corporations: Xcel's Richard Kelly surrounded by a border of green and white flowers; Sallie Mae's Al Lord set against a geometric pattern in cornflower blue. The effect is somewhere between David Lynch and Michael Moore. Meant as a symbol of the invisible power undermining everyday people and contributing to a pervasive sense of anxiety, the plates are, says the artist, "an embodiment of financial panic."
White night gowns, paper-doll streamers, and haunted expressions figure prominently into Noelle McCleaf's photographs. Tonja Torgerson's bright, graphic shadow boxes depict not-so-bright-and-cheery subject matter. Lindsay Noble's zombie-like, life-sized, 3D cutouts are straight out of a down-market catalog. Each offers the familiar turned askew, much the way dreams do.
While you're there, check out the "Bitter Fruits" show upstairs. It's the larger of the two shows up at the gallery this month and features 150 works from eighty artists. The show looks at the role of women as social creatures and art objects.
Anxiety Dreams at Altered Aesthetics runs through Feb. 26.