Here in New England, we’ve been robbed of a proper Halloween twice in a row due to the clockwork October timing of hurricanes and superstorms. Costumes have hung solemnly in the closet, unwrinkled; trick or treating has been cancelled, and decorated houses have lost their jack o’ lanterns and foam headstones in high winds. At 1/2 Hallow’s, The Mercurial Gallery’s Halloween-inspired exhibit, New Englanders can reclaim their lost holidays – the downtown Danbury, Connecticut gallery will be showing works by four regional artists who dabble in darkness from May 25 through July 5. An opening reception will be held at the gallery on Friday, May 31 from 7 to 9pm.
1/2 Hallow’s will feature the work of one blacksmith, William Blass of Sharon, Connecticut, and three painters: Walter von Egidy of Bridgewater, John Slaney of Oakville, and Tess Barbato of Boston, Massachusetts.
Blass holds many titles – he is a fine artist, blacksmith, machinist, metal fabricator, and co-founder of Battle Hill Forge in Millerton, New York, where he works in creating metal fencing, tables, benches, garden art, and pieces as unique as a 10-foot pumpkin scarecrow. Blass has been working with metal since he was a boy, and, as a blacksmith, he studies the history of his craft, exploring various styles and techniques. His artwork is influenced by literature, stories from the Bible, Norse mythology, and folklore; he becomes the narrator retelling these stories through steel and iron.
von Egidy, a graduate of Syracuse University’s visual and performing arts film program, is both filmmaker and painter, working in the world of surrealism with Super 8 photoplays and enamel and oil paintings. He is the owner of Von’s Studio and New Milford Sign Shop, where he is well-known for creating classic-style signs by hand. His highly detailed paintings have a vintage touch to them and often a hint of realism within the surreal: an octopus slowly rotating on a record player with a lit candle entwined in each arm; horror film faces glowing in far off television sets; a dark snapshot of Mischief Night, illuminated only by the end of a cigarette and a swath of toilet paper.
“…unease, dread and a general feeling of insignificance – the things I try to keep alive in myself and perhaps stoke a bit in others.”
“My first image of surrealism was revealed to me at an early age in the vision of a bowling ball lying alone in the desert,” says von Egidy. “Since then I have sought to create a personal universe through the mediums of Super 8 photoplays and enamel and oil paintings by combining a number of childhood influences: Memoires of the fairytale like qualities in golden age horror films, the classic surrealist juxtaposition of unrelated objects, and the exoticism of psychedelia.”
Barbato, a realist oil painter with numerous exhibitions and awards under her belt, is an artist with something to say, a master of delivery in the form of wry paradox. “This Week’s Special,” a series of oil and collage works depicting shrink-wrapped cuts of meat, is so true to life it looks as though it were plucked straight from the supermarket aisle and mounted onto canvas.
“As consumers we demand to have a plethora of choices which eventually ends in the waste of innumerable pounds of meat each year,” Barbato says of the series. “We have become afraid to buy meat with a sell by date with today’s date, let alone yesterday’s. Packing these slabs of decaying meat under clear plastic only succeeds in wrapping them with a false sense of safety and security. In addition, confronting the viewer with the dead, dismembered animal products will ultimately compel the viewer to think about their own mortality and physical composition.”
Slaney is both painter and writer, and he pulls the muse for each medium from the same dark, dank well: the macabre. His specialties are oil paintings on personally prepared wood or canvas and horror film writing; he is a co-founder of Vile Reviews, a website devoted to the genre.
“I’m inspired primarily by the underbelly of humanity and the uncompromising severity of the natural world,” Slaney says. “Criminal behavior in general and serial murder in particular are things I’ve grown more and more fascinated with over the past several years, and I greatly enjoy working from old (and, in many cases, antique) crime scene and coroner’s photos. The process of interpreting aged and thus poor quality, colorless images and transposing them to a canvas or panel is very exciting to me. ”
Slaney has a blunt approach to his work – when painting a murderer or a death scene, he does just that.
“I don’t enjoy suggesting as much as I do showing,” he says. “I feel most comfortable and true to myself when I take direct approaches. And I’ve found this ‘directness’ to be simple and effective when rearing what I believe are very necessary human experiences: unease, dread and a general feeling of insignificance – the things I try to keep alive in myself and perhaps stoke a bit in others.”
1/2 Hallow’s opens at The Mercurial Gallery for regular hours on Saturday, May 25, 2013, and an opening reception will be held on Friday, May 31 from 7 to 9pm. 1/2 Hallow’s will be on display through July 5.
The Mercurial Gallery is located at 11 Library Place in Danbury, Connecticut. Regular gallery hours are Thursday from 4pm to 8pm and Friday through Sunday 12 to 5pm.
Parking is available directly across the street from the gallery in the Charles A. Bardo Parking Garage. Main Street parking is free on Sundays and after 5:30pm.