If You Were Here
Snobby or Culturally Inclined?

By Sarah Tackett

The film Napoleon Dynamite brings to light a shocking reality considering American culture. It reveals that despite the advances we have made society’s dark underbelly of side-ponytails, stirrup pants, and make-up Caboodles still exist. Sure the point of the movie is to isolate you into observing nerdworld, but even the cool kids wear pleated pants. Pleated Pants People! It’s impossible to wear pleated khakis around anyone who works retail here in Lex without an earful on why that’s so wrong, or worse, a simple sigh that means, “I pity your lack of discernment.” Of course, trends come and go, styles weave in and out through time, but stirrup pants? If we let that go then what’s next? Balloon Hair Bows? Scrunchies? Hypercolor!!!?

Once, you go Hypercolor you might as well set your Swatch back to 1992 and take the batteries out. No. One thing about Lexington compared to other cities this size is that we resist cultural stagnation. From food to music to fashion, this town is a contender. Not to say that Lexington is the next Paris or Milan, but that simply many people here have style and usually better than average taste (notwithstanding the blue blazer/khaki pants uniform favored by local businessmen).

There are those, (mostly from another large city here in Kentucky), that even go so far as to call us snobs. Well, if snob means enjoying the pleasures of big city art, theater, music, and fine food in the comfort of our small city, then so be it. Therefore it is a pleasure to report that the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council is launching a new exhibit entitled “If You Were Here.” Somewhat reminiscent of the song “Wish You Were Here,” the show promises the same dreamlike quality in artwork than that of Pink Floyd’s music.

The nine artists included in the exhibit are said to “share a common thread in the treatment of an internal landscape in their work; an obsessive preoccupation with rendering a world constructed of enigmatic images that are amazing and, at times, unsettling.”

After viewing some of the work, this idea of “internal landscape” is more apparent and understandable. Some of these images are derived from pop-culture, others sift back into more of a shared memory of mythic figures or places, some even parallel children’s art portraying abuse, war and violence. Each of the artists consistently plow whatever images they choose into some form of landscape.

Some paintings invite your imagination to fly right into their subtle curves and warm colors. Other works are edgier, suggesting that they are places impossible to reach, or those places that you wouldn’t want to go if possible. It is important that all the work focuses on place rather than people. The difference lies in the particular artists interpretation of that place, if it is real, mythic or imagined.

The artists range from both local talents to that of New York. They include, Jennifer Coates, Michael Eade, David Humphrey, and Daniel Weiner of New York. Gerald DePrie is from West Virginia. Michael Goodlett, Charley Kinney, Gilbert Perrin, and Lawrence Tarpey are from Kentucky. (Tarpey is equally well-known for his music here in Lexington.) The Council notes that despite the geographic disparity, there are common issues interrogated in comparing their work. They state, “This exhibition will illuminate how at a specific time in history artists share similar impulses to make work that reflects universal concerns and interests.” Globalization is a contemporary question. Landscapes are continuously altered to fit this model of development. So it is understandable that these artists are concerned with land, even if it is internalized “highly personal landscapes or psychological terrain.”

Essays by Saul Ostrow will be included in the program available at the show. Ostrow is an internationally recognized art critic with a c.v. a mile long. He teaches Critical Theory at NYU and will probably put the exhibit summary written above to shame. He will also bring much deserved notoriety to the local artists represented.

“If You Were Here” will be exhibited at ArtsPlace Gallery from September 16th to October 30th, 2004. An opening reception will be held September 17th from 5pm to 8pm (the same night as the LACC Gallery Hop). After October 30th “If You Were Here” will travel to Gallery W 52 in New York and Conduit Gallery in Dallas. If you are already planning on going gallery this Friday, it is highly recommended that you see this show, art snob or not. So is Lexington snobby? Maybe. Culturally inclined sounds nicer. More genteel, if you will. Louisville eat your heart out. n