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Gothic Fiction and the Dark Romantics Brumfield’s Gallery June 14 - August 2

‘Gothic Fiction and the Dark Romantics’ confronts dark themes, that while compelling, under close scrutiny create discomfort and unease. Champions of such tales are often driven by a desire to communicate a blunt truth about our humanity. The grotesque is celebrated; our sympathies, darkest fears, and our ability to empathize with the most wretched are provoked. Our champions in this show include Chris Mars, Kevin Titzer, Jane Andrews, Len Shelley, Michael deMeng, Kyla Zoe Rafert, Ego, and Michael Barnes. Art history has been punctuated by figures that appear to fall outside of the visual art traditions of their time, and yet were able to communicate with an audience in a way that their contemporaries were not. Artists such as Bosch, Brugel, and Goya gave us access to the shadows and dark corners of the human activity. Their images resonated with a visceral reality. While the contemporary artists in this exhibiton may acknowledge the continuing influence of these masters, they speak with individual and authentic voices, based in personal experience of their own time. Authenticity is an important element in this work, ensuring that our engagment with these works is ‘real’, rather than a manipulation of our emotions.

The title of this show harks back to a time when our taste for melodrama was at its peak. The Victorian ‘gothic fiction’ of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allen Poe reflected a public fascination with the tragic and frightening, which in its own way was an echo of their time. Concurrent with this was the romantic notion of beauty in pain and the tortured artist. The beautiful melancoly of the Pre-Raphelite era combined love, death, and nature with stoic courage and an aesthetic grace. The eight artists in this show have a similar sensibility, delving into grave ideas, such as suffering, mortality, futility, and our path to self-destruction, while recognizing the resilience of the human spirt. We recognize the light by passing through the shadows. In some faiths there is no evil, just an absence of good, there is no dark, just an absence of light. In Chris Mars’s meticulous paintings we are exposed to cruel and malicious aspects of society, challenging prejudiced ideas of beauty, truth, and despair. Nightmarish scenes are populated by distorted figures which remind us of our own demons, while giving voice to the persecuted and suppressed. Jane Andrews’s paintings and Michael Barnes’s lithographs are more introspective, using personal and surreal imagery to explore their emotional interaction with the world. Andrews’s work deals with identity and nature as she reflects on the survival strategies of character and fate in an ever-changing and complex world. Barnes’s work is a self-investigation. He describes his imagery as focused, “more directly on human nature...The strange hybrid and mutated creatures are the by-product.” Both artists ambiguously express ‘real-world’ autobiographical fact through fictional creatures in unfamiliar ‘other-worlds’. Kevin Titzer, Len Shelley (1964-2010), and Michael deMeng create artifacts imbued with pathos. All three artists utilize found and disgarded objects combined in such a way that past histories of the constituent parts become a forgotten subtext in the presence of the newly formed object. Titzer’s sculptures begin with scavenged materials, such as the metal, wood, and other debris. Each hand carved creature is touched by impulse and mayhem. The late Len Shelley’s artworks were constructed from objects gathered on his habitual walks along the beach. Often centering around anthropomorphic animals, and using snippets from recollections and past conversations to create narrative, Shelley constructed snapshot tableaus layered with personal significance.

DeMeng examines transformation. He seeks to alter pieces that would normally be rejected into works of art and reverence. By borrowing imagery from shrines and relics around the world, his work transforms ‘junk’ into pieces of beauty and meaning. While his initial purpose is to simply find order in a world of chaos, the results are pieces that have taken on a new life, developed and evolved from their former selves. In each of these artists’ work we are presented by objects that appear to have history and narrative and a sense of being totems, fetishes, and talismen with religious or mystical qualities. Kyla Zoe Rafert is largely inspired by the concept of perfectionism as illustrated by the representation of women in Victorian paintings. The women in her paintings are rigid and unchanging, trapped in a seemingly perfect and beautiful world of color and pattern. We view these caged subjects from a distorted perspective, as though watching a performance on stage. The artist’s narrative aims to mimic her Victorian and fairy tale inspirations, with minute details set in deliberately, and provocatively vague scenes. Ego’s paintings have a voice that is both whimsical and disturbing. His figures are meant to delight and frighten his audience, inhabiting scenes that are fantastic and surreal. He likes to think of his work as macabre but not menacing. He comments, “It’s probably best that we get to view their world from the relative safety of ours, because, while most of these characters seem to have a sort of innocent charm…some of them would still, likely, bite first and ask questions later.” ‘Gothic Fiction and the Dark Romantics’ will open on Saturday, June 14 from 7 - 9 p.m. at Brumfield’s Gallery. The event will be open to the public and feature a no-host bar provided by 13th Street Pub & Grill. If you would like more information about the event or to receive press images, please contact the gallery at (208) 333 - 0309 or

Brumfield’s Gallery 1513 N 13th Street Boise, ID 83702