At the Crossroads: Six Narratives at the Intersection of Identity and

Miller White Fine Arts
Sep 20, 2018 8:46PM

At the Crossroads features six Cape Cod-based artists exploring different social ecosystems: The Natural World, The Family, The Village, The Odyssey, The Mask and The Friend. The linking common theme is how identity and community interact and are ultimately preserved, archived and displayed for a dialogue. Installed in recognition of the 35th Anniversary of Cape Cod Museum of Art in 2015, the curator, Susan Danton, suggests that the question “Who are you?" has never been more relevant nor more difficult to answer than it is today. Through the plethora of electronically transmitted information available in the blink of an eye, each of us is unrelentingly hounded by the many competing forces that want to define us as "them." Often, the din results in an internal split consciousness, which discord then provokes conflict within our relationships. There is indeed a certain glamour intrinsic to the sheer immediacy of information flow, but there is also a resident danger in the crisis of glibness it creates. In other words, to answer the above question, we must discover where we end and others begin. At the Crossroads offers the viewer an opportunity to examine these junctures, as well as revolutionize his/her self-awareness in relation to them.

Welcome to the show.

Ian Leslie’s book, Curious (2014), hasn’t been far from my side since I read it over a year ago. In it, he describes a scenario that provoked in me a sense of horror that I’ve never since been able to shake off. Online news service Reddit recently posted a question to its consumers relative to what might be the most difficult thing to explain about our world to someone unfamiliar with it. The landslide answer was: I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers (pg. 84).

The Natural World (gate detail) by Alfred Glover, composed as a garden gate of welded steel left in a raw state to imply the vast potential that attends new life.

Among other things, this scenario describes a person who doesn’t have a strong drive to make sense of the world, which is fundamentally catastrophic to fostering relationships. The Internet has bestowed both an immense blessing and a huge curse upon every being who has access to it, worldwide. Our lives are indeed larger because of it, but are they more meaningful? Our myriad contacts acquired through the Cloud form the biggest distraction from the truth, which is that our lives are wide, not deep. With the Internet’s extraordinary on-demand capability, we risk thinking we know everything when, in actual fact, we experience life through a veneer of frequently pointless and often false information.

The cure, Leslie offers, is curiosity. One measure of how curious one is may be indicated by one’s creations. And creation can mean anything, from soup to industry to art. All it means is having a capacity for innovation. Taking comprehensive stock of that on a regular basis is crucial to the health of our planet and every living thing upon her.

The Family by Jill Hedrick, composed of hundreds of photo clippings mounted on wood panels with gloss gel medium. Hedrick tells a story about surviving her first family's complex dysfunction as she prepares the ground for the urban family to come.

Obviously, the art created for this show is one such manifestation, but it doesn’t end there. It merely provides the space – the intersection – for self-review, encouraging whatever that next step is in the eternal process of self-inquiry.  Do the motifs represented carry any weight? Are they relevant?  If so, in what way?  If not, why not?  From this line of questioning, the art and the artists invite you into a visual dialogue – an opportunity for self-contemplation relative to the overarching question, “Who are you?”

Sincerely and authentically offering yourself in this hugely complicated world means taking a giant step towards evaluating the constructs by which you were raised and which define your life to the present day.  To become self-aware is akin to waking from a lucid dream in which you are defined only by the forces in your life.  This suggests that blindly conforming to the expectations of others regarding the values and ideals you live by actually feed the mystery of your life versus the mastery you may aspire to.

The Village by Jon Goldman, composed of digitally painted, aluminum mounted portraits of the residents of his home town, Woods Hole, MA.  60 portraits of 250 are shown here.  The project will eventually comprise 781 portraits.  

More to the point, those expectations may, in fact, be absolutely appropriate but only upon your own subjective scrutiny. As in applied science, the process of forming values requires that all of life’s experience be distilled from the root into coherent, reliable and well-grounded patterns of behavior.  Only then, may you own your own life and, when confronted at the crossroads, wisely choose directions that are right for you.

The Mask by Steve Whittlesey, in two parts....  In-House and Protective Custody define the Person and the Persona...

Protective Custody (L) and In-House (R) by Steve Whittlesey, composed of found and salvaged objects and exploring the identities we keep to ourselves and those we share with the rest of the world.  Often, they are at odds with each other.

Consistent with arriving at a crossroads is asking the question, “Where do I go from here?” Arriving at an intersection, we hope we’ve acquired the education, experience and nurturing necessary to make the most advantageous determination.  In some cases, we must grapple with chance and hope for the best, calling less upon personal experience and more upon blind faith as a guide.  In other cases, we are unable to move, knowing that we are ill equipped or perhaps too fearful to do so. What we don’t want to do is make hugely important decisions within an identity crisis, or the absence of self-awareness. There are many competing forces that want to define us as them, and the only resolution to this assault is unfaltering self-definition.

The Odyssey by Melissa Woolford, composed of pine arches with labeling at each foot and goat-chewed Christmas trees. The labeling indicates statistical information relevant to the artist as she contemplates the arrival of her first child and the forces of nature and nurture that will impact her young life.

The individual narratives in the show each tell a sweeping story on behalf of us all, meaning we all have an important story to share with others.  And, where do these stories take us?  Why is it even important to go there?  The context for these monumental installations – a community-based, cultural arena – provides a clue to the answer.  

The Friend by Wayne Miller, composed of his series In a Western Mirror: 18 Paintings on the Life and Art of Roger Shimomura, Yellow Terror by Roger Shimomura (on loan from Bill and Christy Gautreaux), and three handmade lecterns offering a sampling of the vast ephemera collected throughout Wayne and Roger's 50+ year friendship.

The fact is we all enter the Natural World by some means, born into a Family of some kind within a larger Village community of some form. We traverse the winding and arduous Odyssey of life, gathering Friends (or not!) along the way. At the end of each day, we hopefully can separate the Self from the Mask, knowing where we end and another begins.

Perhaps the most sweeping statement of all describes a process of rigorous personal growth that is commensurate with three things: a resonance with life’s relentless demands, full responsibility for ourselves and to others, and living life replete with values that are unique to ourselves yet imbued with immense relevance to share with others.  From the sharing comes the realization of just how important one human story becomes because, at some crucial intersection, we realize we aren’t isolated one from another, after all.

Yellow Terror through the In-House keyhole...

Susan Reid Danton, Guest Curator, At the Crossroads: Six Narratives at the Intersection of Identity and Community, Miller White Fine Arts, South Dennis, MA April 2016

All photographs by Frank Winters.

Please contact Miller White Fine Arts for a complimentary copy of the Crossroads exhibition booklet.

Miller White Fine Arts