"Dissolving the Frontier" is a collection of works that are indicative of a pervasive tension brewing in Colorado amidst the shifting social, political and environmental challenges of a regional identity in flux. The notion of the frontier is an image of the prototypical American myth, where rugged individualists can create their own rules and reap great rewards in the face of great risk. Upon closer examination, the optics shift. Those who pushed those frontiers did so at great cost to others, whether through violent dislocation, subjugation or intimidation. The work in this exhibition tells a different story. It tells the story of a groundswell of multicultural inclusivity, political activism, and a re-examination of the romantic image of the land and what it represents. These works speak to the uncomfortability of change and the will to challenge hegemonic perception. Collectively, these artists represent a shift away from idealistic, normative representations of a western landscape designed to be owned by a single lone viewer and reveal that the physical, political and metaphorical horizons shaping Colorado is more diverse than it appears.
Kari Treadwell Ruehlen’s 3-part series Fillings is a series of performance videos that feature women’s shoes filled with various pie fillings. As the artist places her feet into each shoe, a tension between the material and symbolic emerges. As viewers, we are immediately confronted with the uncomfortable design of these shoes, what these shoes represent for women and how that same representation resonates with the objectification of the women’s body through the cultural meme of their sex as a consumable food item. These gestures simultaneously elicit humor, disgust and contemplation through the framing of the performative act.
The landscape performances by Jenna Maurice present a cautious meditation of the body both embracing and suffering at the hands of nature. By focusing on the complications of communication, the attempt to fold a dialogue between form and content reflects a complex weaving of metaphor for what the land is and what we wish it to be. In Interacting With The Lowest Point In North America, the artist quite literally buries her head in the sand, an action that elicits a panicked response as it is held, creating an empathetic response from her viewers while also forcing the issue as it relates to our attitudes about the environment. Conversely, Integration with the Pond, presents a similar dilemma, where the dissolution of the body into nature quite literally causes her to disappear without a trace that she was ever there, a humorous commentary on the limits of interconnectedness with the environment. Joshua Tree instead deals with impermanence and futility of interacting with forms that dwarf the efforts of the human experience.
Adán De La Garza’s works share a similar theme, “These works were born out of a deep distaste for the contemporary political state, as well as feeling stifled by my own anger and the inability to feel as though I can enact positive influence beyond myself. The Governing body has an alienating hold that pushes its subjects toward a sentiment of hopelessness. As a result, our hopes shift away from changing the system or building a new one and more toward “something” being able to change what’s around us. Our culture’s obsession with notions of the apocalypse, collapse or disaster is the single tangible way we see the ability to witness dramatic change, so we fantasize about "acts of god" as the only possible way we will ever see any transformation. I am convinced that people don’t actually want to witness the apocalypse, but that they want to witness change on a scale Governments would never allow for. Our bureaucratic processes slow down and remove us from any all direct elements of change and, as a result, a boiling over of frustration becomes the dominant ideology. These pieces deal with the willingness to break and destroy as a vital part of implementing change while indulging in the catharsis of witnessing that action.”
Fitzgerald’s works are a fluid mix of cinematic imagery and poetry that invite viewers to build a common vernacular for further insight into the black experience. They will come for you (prologue/epilogue) is a short yet complex study in framing as a formal and metaphorical toolset to that addresses the psychological resonance that all black bodies feel when dealing with law enforcement. Gloom is a more abstract meditation on the form of the black body as resistance incarnate, juxtaposing the back of a black person with the sturdiness of a tree trunk, the artist frames the audio of political and environmental disaster as unable to bend the subject.
- Jason Bernagozzi
This text accompanies the exhibition Dissolving the Frontier.