Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hearsay: Artists Reveal Urban Legends @ Begovich Gallery

This week, I checked out the current exhibit at Begovich Gallery at Cal State Fullerton, entitled Hearsay: Artists Reveal Urban Legends."  Here's what the curators had to say about the exhibit:

Urban legends serve as modern day mythology.  Often evolved from cultural traditions and morality tales, these stories engage our collective fears and provoke strong emotional responses.  Such legends survive through storytelling that is often communicated using a mix of words and imagery.  The narrative can intensify the impact of the legend.  The more fantastic the tale, the more likely it will be passed down through generations.  More recently, the Internet has encouraged the rapid dissemination of these modern legends, many of which can be traced back to the original folklore that inspired them. 

The works of the thirty-seven artists included in this exhibit are based on specific urban legends.  Each work is accompanied by text explaining the artist's personal connection to a chosen urban legend.  The purpose of this exhibition is not to illustrate urban legends, but to better understand them by considering them in the context of each artist's interpretation.

--Curators Lauren Haisch and Wendy Sherman

I wandered through the exhibit, taking pictures and notes…

"Stack 7" by Joe Biel

Joe Biel's "Stack 7" is based on the urban legend that Mr. Rogers was a Navy seal sniper.  According to Biel, the work reveals "the 'shadow side' of a sort of Middle American positivism he represents."

"Portrait of Walt" by Llyn Foulkes

Llyn Foulkes' "Portrait of Walt" is based in the urban legend that Walt Disney built a special suite for himself in Cinderella's Castle at the The Magic Kingdom, to spy on children.  It was inspired by the experience of when the artist "read the first page from the Mickey Mouse Club handbook written in 1934.  They talked about how they implant things in children's minds so they absorb them almost unconsciously."  He said he "was concerned about children and what it was doing to them…Everybody's brainwashed by Disney."

"Frozen Walt Doll (Green Tie Edition) by Burt Payne and Stephen Hillenburg

Burt Payne and Stephen Hillenburg's "Frozen Walt Doll (Green Tie Edition)" is based on the urban legend that the cryogenically frozen body of Walt Disney is buried at CalArts.  While students there, the two artists searched, fruitlessly, for this body.

"Poison Apples" by Christopher Ulrich

Christopher Ulrich's "Poison Apples" is based on the urban legend that some sick adults hide razor blades in the apples they give children trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  

"While Traveling Near or Traveling Far, Keep Your Hands Inside the Car" by Robert Williams.

Robert William's piece is based on a legend his parents told him as a child.  They would say: "Don't stick our hands outside the car, there's a man that stands beside the road that will cut your arms off!"  Alternate titles for this piece include: The Tale of the Raodside Arm Whacker Who Keepss His Cutlery 'Where the Sun Don't Shine' and Whise Knives Stink so Bad That All Will Know Your Fate by the Smell of Your Stump" and "The White of an Egg Runs Down a Brat-Maimer's Leg."

"Robot-Sasquatch" by Kevin Bradley

Kevin Bradley's "Robot-Sasquatch" is one of a few pieces in the exhibit that focus on the legend of Bigfoot.  In Bradley's version, Bigfoot is "in fact a robot, controlled by aliens."

"Approved Method of FInding a Bigfoot Dropping" by Clayton Bailey

"In 1971, inspired by Bigfoot stories that Bailey read in the Weekly World News tabloid, Prof. Bailey and Dr. Gladstone decided to look for indisputable proof of the existence of Big Foot.  Together they unearthed a kaolithinc skeleton of a Bigfoot, and a Bigfoot Dropping in their backyard in California.  Sesonal mudslides on the nearby hillside had exposed the bones.  This was very handy, as it eliminated the need to dig, and reduced travel expenses too."  -- Clayton Bailey

"The Purple Squirrel" by Sarina Brewer

Sarina Brewer explains her piece: "The first purple rodent was purportedly spotted in 1997 in Minnesota.  The second sighting wasn't until 2008, when photos or a purple squirrel made the newspapers in England.  The most recent claim was made in 2013 by a Pennsylvanian couple who allegedly trapped a purple squirrel that had been raiding their bird feeder.  There has been some disconcerting conjecture that their color could be caused by the ingestion of large amounts of bromide, a waste product of the natural gas mining industry in Pennsylvania."

"Popping Truth" by Naida Osline

Osline made a youtube-style video to de-bunk the viral urban legend that, when four cell phones are set off simultaneously, they can pop popcorn.  This viral legend turned out to be a marketing hoax for a Bluetooth device, and so she "busted" the myth.  She explains: "On a casual Friday, during a time I worked in local government at city hall, some coworkers and I made this video in the office.  The overall daily dynamic at city hall, which is a mixture of monotony and crisis, is the perfect breeding ground for half-truths and viral hoaxes."

"Elmer McCurdy" by Scott D. Wilson

Scott D. WIlson's piece "Elmer McCurdy" is about the legend of an Oklahoma outlaw who died in 1911 and, through a series of unlikely events, ended up an unidentified mummified corpse in Los Angeles.  How did he get there?!

"Hospital Television" by Michael Criley

Michael Criley's installation/video "Hospital Television" is based on the following urban legend: "One night a man's car broke down near an asylum.  When he went to use their phone, he found the desk nurse easily charmed.  She offered him a staff bed.  Car trouble had only been a ruse.  He was actually selling institutional refrigerators.  After breakfast and a tour of the kitchen, he left behind a good impression, a sales brochure, and a promotional ice pick.  He returned the next month, this time having suffered a mental breakdown.  The desk nurse took pity and arranged for him to be on the surgical list for a new procedure that held great promise.  And so it came to be that less than a year after his first visit, the ice pick he'd left behind was used to lobotomize him."

"The Babysitter" by Mike Cockrill

Mick Cockrill's "The Babysitter" is based on the urban legend about a babysitter who found herself alone in a bedroom with a clown pretending to be a statue.  In the artist's version, "the unconvinced girl wields a Glock revolver (found in the parental bureau?) and practically winks at the viewer as she prepares to turn toward the clown.  The terrified clown can only hope she fires at his reflection in the mirror, buying him time to slip away amid the confusion of a gunshot and shattering glass."

"Egg Man, Squash Monster, Little Monster" by Marnie Weber

Marnie Weber's terrifying sculpture is based on the legend of "The White Lady of Union Cemetery"

"Nixon's Ghost" by Jeffrey Vallance

Jeffrey Vallance's piece is based on the urban legend that the ghost of former president Richard Nixon haunts the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.  If you have ever been there, you know how creepy that place is.

"What the Tree Remembers" by Laurie Hasshold

"What the Tree Remembers" by Laurie Hasshold (detail)

 "What the Tree Forgets" by Laurie Hasshold

Laurie Hasshold's beautiful sculptures are based on the urban legend of the Haunted Tree at Griffith Park.  According to legend, about 30 years ago, a couple was instantly killed by a large tree that fell on them as they made love beneath it.  Any park ranger who has attempted to remove the fallen tree has met with illness or death, and to this day, the fallen tree remains.

"Shadows of the Mind" by Dmitriy Astakhov

Dmitriy Astakhov's piece is based on the legend of "Black Aggie" and the true events of fraternity initiations that once took place under the cover of night on General Felix Agnus grave in Druid Ridge Cemetery.

"The Haunting of the Haunted Painting" by Nicola Verlato

Nicola Verlato's painting is, to me, the most impressive of the exhibit.  It depicts the urban legend of a haunted painting.

This exhibit runs through May 8.  For hours and info, visit their web site HERE.

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