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Crawl Space: October 2022

This month’s creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky First Saturday events include Art of the South at Zeitgeist and Electioneering at Unrequited Leisure

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“Future Artifact,” Lydia Moyer

Wedgewood-Houston

Lydia Moyer and Sam Lavigne’s Electioneering exhibition opens at Unrequited Leisure on Saturday night, and runs through Nov. 9, the day after Election Day. The show’s title — and its timing on the fall art calendar — are no accident. Electioneering aims to highlight, interrogate and ultimately satirize the aesthetics of contemporary American political advertising. It’s a diabolical art form unto itself that developed alongside midcentury television technology and into the endless loop of the 24-hour cable news cycle before oozing onto the doomscroll of the social apps on our mobile devices. Moyer’s work generally focuses on an individual response to contemporary social, political and environmental crises, and Lavigne’s art is preoccupied with data, surveillance and policing. 

Each artist contributes here, but Electioneering is ultimately a group show with more artists added to the video loop on display at the gallery’s Packing Plant space each week. By election night, the various contributions to the collaborative video will constitute a frenzied dance of partisan pixels to match the mediated madness that stands in for functioning democracy in America. Here’s hoping this exhibition puts a gleeful stake through the heart of the political establishment’s duopoly puppet show, and that it’s not just another forgettable contribution to the ignorant scrap heap of artist-made political propaganda that’s proliferated over the past half decade.

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“Juggler,” Delia Seigenthaler

Nashville-based artist Delia Seigenthaler is bringing paper, magazines, old photographs, a stack of her mother’s mail-order art school books, mass-produced art, thrift store finds, antique children’s books, doll catalogs and wallpaper flowers to her show at Julia Martin Gallery, Trials and Dispositions. The exhibition of multimedia works is predictably fashioned from lots of colorful cutouts and castoffs, but it avoids the kitschy clichés that make a lot of collage art read like clever and forgettable novelty displays. This work is actually weird and admirably mysterious. Seigenthaler’s puppet-like sculptures are truly creepy — perfect for this shadowy season of cackling jack-o’-lanterns, pagan holy days and masked-maniac movies. 

The artist’s 2-D work presents various characters pieced together from mismatched elements, just like Mary Shelley’s monster — the first exquisite corpse. These works — like most figurative art — evoke narratives. But where a lesser artist would give us visual puns or Hallmark-style messaging, Seigenthaler delivers new fables, forgotten mythologies and neo-alchemical compositions alluding to some hidden knowledge buried between their layers. If you love collage and assemblage done right, and you’ve already got your Halloween costume planned, you’ll want to make like a vampire and hang at the opening reception — from 6 to 9 p.m. this Saturday night.  

Number art journal was founded in Memphis in 1987. It’s one of the oldest publications of its kind in the South, and for Number, the South is a very big place. I wrote more about the history of the journal in the Scene’s recent Fall Guide, and one of Number’s most admirable and ambitious principles is that the region known as the South includes everything from Arkansas to Florida, and from Maryland to Texas. The journal’s documented the best contemporary art in 17 states for 35 years, and their Art of the South benefit exhibition organizes annual displays of the best work being made across Number’s very broad “South.” 

The exhibition has been off the calendar since 2019 due to the pandemic, but it makes a triumphant return at Zeitgeist this Saturday. Art of the South used to mean a yearly pilgrimage to Bluff City — twist my arm and force me to eat barbecue and buy another Graceland shot glass, or watch Mystery Train for the 86th time. Number recently relocated to The Packing Plant in Nashville under the care of interim editor Jon Sewell. And this first Art of the South in Music City is juried by Frist Art Museum senior curator Katie Delmez, who blind-selected 86 works for this sprawling regional survey. The show’s Middle Tennessee-based artists include Cesar Pita, Dooby Tompkins, Omari Booker, Amelia Briggs, Sai Clayton, Paul Collins, Lindsy Davis, Elise Drake, DaShawn Lewis — and yours truly. Zeitgeist celebrates with an opening reception from noon until 6 p.m. this Saturday.

 

Downtown  

Mel Beall’s Life in Widening Circles opens at The Browsing Room in the Downtown Presbyterian Church this Saturday night. Beall’s title immediately puts me in mind of life over the past few years as we each move out from under the worst of the pandemic at our own pace, slowly reclaiming our freedom of movement and reconnecting with friends and family after having our lives shrunk so suddenly and severely. Beall’s show is actually a lot more universal, timeless and generally human than that, exploring the expanding nature of our lives as we grow and experience and hopefully gain a little bit of wisdom between the cradle and the grave. 

Beall’s work combines her training as a textile artist with the meditation sigils she’s been drawing in her practice as one of the Downtown Presbyterian Church’s artists-in-residence. Sigil drawing usually starts with a written prayer, intention or request. The individual letters are broken down into basic lines and shapes, which are recombined into a symbolic design as the original phrase disappears and is dissolved into the depths of the artist’s subconscious mind, resulting in text paintings you can’t read. Life in Widening Circles’ vitality and mortality themes are a great match for the lead-up to All Hallows’ Eve, and you can commune with these spirits at a reception at the Browsing Room from 6 until 8 p.m. on Saturday night.

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