Among the most famous journeys in literature is that of Robert Frost, who, as he described in The Road Not Taken, came across two diverging roads in a wood and “took the one less traveled.” In his much-discussed metaphor for the crossroads by which we are continually confronted on life’s journey, Frost uses imagery of the natural world to give form to such intangible, yet keenly felt, emotions as doubt, regret, fear, and longing. As did Frost, so do the four up-and-coming artists featured in Gallery 1261’s “Inner Journey / Visual Experience,” who express their own experiences of life, the world, and themselves through art. In their paintings and drawings, Robin Cole Smith, Mia Bergeron, Daniel Keys, and Mikael Olson make their innermost selves material.
For Robin Cole Smith, whose paintings and drawings of minutely observed natural forms are included in the exhibition, nature is a mirror of our psychological and emotional landscape. Instinct III (2013) exemplifies her effort to, in her words, explore our “inner wilderness by way of an outer one.” In it, she takes viewers into the dark, swirling center of a vastly enlarged bird’s nest, whose efficient, beautiful shape derives entirely from instinct—an inchoate, alchemical interior force possessed by all living beings, including us. Mia Bergeron merges the personal and universal by imbuing her lushly rendered portraits of herself and others with her own life experiences. In Loss (2014), a self-portrait painted on her 33rd birthday, we see only the bottom half of her face. Her eyes and forehead dissolve into a dark smear, evocative of the deeply affecting experience of a loved one’s psychological breakdown.
Mikael Olson, who describes his work as “raw and lush,” cultivates an unpolished immediacy in his paintings of the fleeting urban vignettes that make up the fabric of his surroundings. Through this highly expressive, personal approach, he captures the moody resonance of the interior of a dark bar, the long, lonely aisle of an army surplus store, or the optimism of a city street bathed in amber sunlight. Self-taught artist Daniel Keys concentrates on still life and landscape subjects, through which he conveys his deep spirituality. Everything he paints, from a shapely ram’s skull to a thawing stream, is an expression of himself. “Art is a means of revealing who you are,” he claims, speaking, it would seem, for all of the artists in the exhibition.
“Inner Journey / Visual Experience” is on view at Gallery 1261, Denver, April 25-May 31, 2014.