University of Kentucky Art Museum director Stuart Horodner says there is a specific thought process behind choosing the right exhibitions. Questions including how each artist’s work interacts with the others and how the art will be significant in a university setting and be perceived by young adults must be addressed.
In the case of the current spring and summer exhibits, he says, they speak strongly for themselves but are all in dialogue with each other in terms of fantasy and storytelling. The three shows on exhibit for the next three months are The Brothers Grimm by Natalie Frank, Figures & Grounds by Lawrence Tarpey, and Camera Drama by Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Duane Michals.
The staff at the UK Art Museum are always “trying to put shows together that are either in dialogue with each other or very contrasting,” Horodner says.
“Frank addresses history, literature, contemporary art, reality, and fantasy,” Horodner says. “Tarpey is an interesting comparison because of his intimate works that are very monochrome, and Meatyard and Michals both work with elements of fantasy and transformation. The three shows all have something to do with narrative and storytelling.”
Meatyard was born in Illinois in 1925 but moved to Lexington as a young adult, and he became an active member of the Lexington Camera Club. He died in Lexington in 1972 at age 46. Tarpey has lived and worked in Lexington for many years. Horodner says the museum likes to find interesting local art, and he’s always looking for significant art. He wants to display art that comes from Kentucky, including art from outside the community so people can see work that they otherwise might not see.
Inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, written initially for adults, The Brothers Grimm contains notions of literature, history, identity, beauty, love, violence and desire. Frank, who is based in New York, incorporates new themes of feminism, women’s desire, portrayal and beauty into her work, feminism being perhaps the strongest theme.
Her work is informed by today’s representation of women in fashion and media. This is especially present in her Cinderella and Snow White works, where the greatest desire of the women in the stories is to find a “handsome” prince. These themes can be seen in the art particularly when women are dressed up and being watched by other people or by bodiless eyes.
Horodner says this exhibit might be especially intriguing to adults and young adults, because Frank’s art is likely to spark an interest in rereading the Brothers Grimm stories and discover ideas that are quite different from those that one might have interpreted as a child. He also says that Frank’s “sheer skill in detail makes her artwork successful, and she chooses to use color and mixed media so that the viewer sees her artwork in a very intimate way.”
Tarpey’s Figures & Grounds contains monochrome images, but he achieves the same goals of fantasy in his work. Horodner says Tarpey “is almost etching his work to make an abstract image,” but Tarpey uses these “moments of transformation of imagery” to create an intimate and dreamlike world. “All these choices make his work equally effective,” Horodner says. “It’s just a different strategy.”
The themes of fantasy continue in the exhibition with Meatyard’s and Michals’ gallery, Camera Drama. Michals, a native of Pennsylvania, incorporates text with his photographs by adding it into the margins. Most people don’t think of a standard “great photograph” as needing text along with it, but Michals is willing to extend the way people look at his photos by adding an element of story. The text allows people to not only look at a great photograph, but look deeper into it to find meanings that might otherwise never have been thought of. Meatyard incorporates fantastic elements into his photography in a more straightforward way. He captures photos of children in abandoned barns, wearing grotesque masks, and Horodner says it’s intiallydescribes this as a strange and perhaps disturbing. On further consideration, narratives of the horrors of growing up can be seen.
Horodner and other museum staffer worked to find maximum connectivity. He says it’s easy to find great art that you never knew existed, and “the thing that brought you in might not be what you fall in love with when you’re here.”
Kathryn Hurst: 859-231-1687, @kehurst_98
If you go
University of Kentucky Art Museum
What: The Brothers Grimm, Natalie Frank; Figures & Grounds, Lawrence Tarpey; Camera Drama, Eugene Meatyard and Duane Michals)
When: May 6-July 31
Gallery Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Where: UK Art Museum, Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.