As I take a stroll through social media on a cold, winter day, I’m drowned in election commentary from friends, family and strangers. While D.C. seems light years away, I wonder if all this chaos and confusion could result in new art movements from so-called “Middle America,” as I hope for the best. An invitation lights up on my phone to an event at a gallery inside The Draw, an artists’ workspace in Appleton. “May you live in interesting times,” reads the description.
The WAKE // Aftermath of an Election
The opening night of The WAKE // Aftermath of an Election at The Draw’s Feather and Bone Art Gallery was exactly what its name states. An awakening in the midst of political metamorphosis, the show successfully brought people together with its positive message on the night of the presidential inauguration. The themed show allowed one to spend time with each piece and really interpret it based on its context. With one face looking to the past, and one facing the future (much like Rob Neilson’s sculpture Rootin Tootin Putin), the collection portrayed a narrative that encourages viewers to reflect, but to also be hopeful and proactive in the days to come.
“I was really impressed that there are pieces that are in-your-face, dark and suggestive, hopeful, and pieces that really make you think,” says John Adams, one of the curators of the exhibit. The diverse pieces energize varying emotions from the viewer, and each emotion is challenged as you move from piece to piece.
Julie Jilek’s The Lottery was one of the most powerful pieces in the exhibit. The installation is based off of a short story from 1848 by Shirley Jackson of the same title. “The idea that people can abandon reason and act cruelly if they are part of a larger group of people behaving in the same manner is woven deeply throughout the tale,” says Jilek. “The idyllic setting of the story demonstrates that violence and evil can take place anywhere and in any context.” The Lottery depicts an annual ritual known as “the lottery” in a small town. Children gather stones as the adults assemble for their annual event to ensure a good harvest. Rumors arise that nearby communities are doing away with the lottery. Each year, someone is blamed for society’s evils and is banished in a sort of renewal ceremony, to purge the town of the bad and allow for the good.
Gail Simpson, a Stoughton-based artist, felt that the dignity, respect, seriousness of purpose, and the history of presidential honor associated with Resolute, the Oval Office desk, are values that have too quickly been dismissed by the current administration. In response, she created a replica of the desk going up in flames out of recyclable material. Simpson says the recycled cardboard creates a snapshot of our current material environment by recording the many things we buy, consume and throw away. “When the sculpture’s moment has passed, it can go back into the recycling bin and exist only in photos and memory.”
The exhibit was constructed by The Sepulchral Collective, made up of Adams, Rob Neilson, Tony Conrad and Brad Brautigam. “It came together fairly organically,” says Adams. “We all kind of brought 2-4 artists to the table and left it up to them to create something.”Artists from the area as well as from Ripon, Milwaukee and Madison were able to participate in the show and communicate the ways they have been feeling in a unique outlook of the past year. It will be displayed at The Draw until February 26. The Draw hopes to continue this post-election narrative by inclusively hosting events open to all aspects of conversation.