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Fairy Tales, Etc.

A Technicolor Hinterland
Fairy Tales, Etc.
BT&C Gallery showcases artwork of Amanda Besl

Amanda Besl’s artwork currently on show at the BT&C Gallery comprises pencil on paper drawings and oil on wood paintings of jumble arrangements of chotchkie ceramic or porcelain figures of deer, ballerinas in tutus, and ladies in Ancien Régime hoop-skirt dress, amid backdrops of flowers, leaves, and branches, and Besl’s signature item hair. Disembodied tresses, sometimes braided, more often loose and flowing in rococo curls and waves. Hair that embellishes and entangles. Entangled in deer antlers, or in one case around the neck of one of the hoop-skirt figurines, like an elaborate necklace. Choker, literally. Like it’s strangling her. And in one or two cases an actual human figure. And in one case an actual deer.

The Forest Electric
The Ravens

A strange mix—but not entirely incongruous—of nature and artifice. Other Ancien reference in the ballerina figurines. Classical ballet was invented in the court of Louis XIV. And ballet itself a mix of nature and unnatural. In the sheer physical strength and arduous training first requisites of the art form, and rather cruelly unnatural positions and poses, combining to produce exquisite artifice, art. And the object art ceramic or porcelain figures—known as Meissen ware or Dresden ware—an invention of the same Ancien era. And traditionally identified with that era. Why the costumes of that time and place. Even the deer figurines not entirely incongruous in the context. In conjunction with the garden flora. Nature in a tame or tamed vein. A little reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s precious artifice peasant cottage and village refuge from the Versailles court. (In implied ironic contrast with the later violent end of the Versailles court and court personages, including Marie Antoinette.)

Dream visions of fairy tales, fairy tale components. But not Grimm’s fairy tales as much as Perrault’s. Folk tales projected and filtered through a courtly lens. So not patently about the most poignant folk themes—poverty and related personal calamity—but folk themes hidden or half-hidden behind a scrim curtain. Artifice in implicit ironic contrast to the reality it fails to conceal. Like the Marie Antoinette peasant cottage and village refuge.

Beautiful drawing especially apparent in the pencil on paper works, less apparent in the paintings, where drawing is not the main topic, but first and foremost color, which is lush and harsh. Hard, cold, iridescent metallic. Acid colors. You can almost taste the acid tang. Underscoring the strange to alien character of the subject matter, the hair and figurines, now including candle-holder birds among the deer and ballerinas. Light source also becomes an issue in the paintings (it wasn’t particularly in the drawings). In one case from a round or elliptical window sole light source into an otherwise dark attic. Eerie atmospherics.

Plus a different organizational principle in the paintings versus the drawings. A kind of centrifugality. Things fly apart. The drawings about a static relationship among the depicted objects. The paintings more about a dynamic event. More difficult and more disturbing. More nightmare than dream vision. Fairy tale elements harder to construct into a rational narrative. About the dark side of the fairy tale. The menace reality versus romanticism.

Not much help from the work titles on what might be going on in the various drawings or paintings. What the artist intended by the particular imagery assemblage. Titles of drawings such as Hinterland, Coup d’État, The Waltz Played On, and Briar. The titles of the paintings similarly little help on the sense or meaning of the works, but seeming to acknowledge the strange feel of the coloristics. Titles like Neon Danube, A Technicolor Hinterland, and Electric Ballerina.

The Amanda Besl exhibit continues through November 27.

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