The Art of Being Honest: “Alternate Landscapes” & “Werner Herzog Eats A Sandwich”
On a recent Friday night I visited two art shows that both opened on Greenpoint Ave. Both artists, Maj Anya DeBear and Roxanne Palmer mentioned that honesty was one driving force behind their recent artworks. While being true to oneself creatively in a hard to please art world is difficult to attain, the resulting satisfaction and confidence that came through made for two stand-out openings on either side of McGuinness Blvd.
Maj Anya DeBear’s Alternate Landscapes exhibition at The One Well fit perfectly in with the carefully curated vintage finds and eco-friendly products offered at the boutique. But the high placement of the very detailed works left me wishing I could get a better look at each piece.
After speaking with Maj, who said she is presenting a “real theme of escapism and exoticism,” to demonstrate the “unattainable horizon” that goes along with travel and tourism – I was better able to accept my fate of viewing the works from below.
Shop owner Kerry Jones, who was familiar with Maj’s textiles said she is a lover of “psychedelia and topographic maps” and was immediately attracted to the work.
Maj’s new works on paper, with remnants of tropical places set loosely over pinned map textures, are very different from past work, which are intricate medallions created with fabric and sequins that memorialize old world painting scenes. Her recent works are part of a “more spontaneous sketching process” using her own old comic books that resulted in a “less precious and less calculated” body of work that are “true reflections of her subconscious.”
Maj said she wasn’t “trying to please anyone else.” And because she referenced imagery, like Danish comic strips about horses, that she “literally spent hours of [her] childhood obsessively reading,” she feels the works “reflect so much of [her] hopes and aspirations.”
Down the road at Yashar Gallery, I met with Roxanne Palmer, a local cartoonist, journalist and science writer whose show titled Werner Herzog Eats a Sandwich was inspired by a real life encounter the artist had with the filmmaker. At a Q & A about “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” she asked Werner if he dreams of caves to which he responded that he rarely dreams but when he does it’s boring like eating a sandwich.
When I turned the question on Roxanne she said her recurring dreams are of trees growing inside of buildings and giant frozen waves – both striking images in their own right.
When asked why she chose the director as her focus Roxanne said she admires Werner’s “commitment to darkness” and his “honest way of seeing the world.” And so her four paintings in the show are reinventions of kinda crazy scenes in Werner Herzog’s kinda crazy life. And it gets real when she takes it to an even more bizarre level or leaves a bit to the imagination.
Like when Roxanne serves Werner a sandwich filled with chicken heads! In an interview, Werner said “the enormity of their stupidity is just overwhelming.” The intense visceral quality of the scene in the painting, the action of chewing into a sandwich of bloody heads – just works.
In another painting Werner is bleeding from his mouth and just like the sandwich painting, it’s intriguing without the backstory. You don’t even need to know who Werner Herzog is to ask, who is this guy and what happened to him? The story goes that after some major mishaps on a film set, he promised the crew if they were careful and there were no more injuries he would jump into a cactus – and he did it!
Beside Roxanne’s Herzog acrylic paintings are graphic watercolors of Egyptian bird headed nudes having rough and deadly sex with headless humans. I’m not sure of the connection between these works and the Herzog paintings other than Roxanne desire to make them; she said: “I just wanted to paint birds.”
But these aren’t just birds. Roxanne went on to say that she wanted to explore sex in her work and in particular immortal sex just doesn’t pan our well for people. These pieces are erotic, vibrant, bold, sexy, bloody and fantastic.
“Violence and sex. It’s hard not to be interested,” Roxanne said.
Roxanne’s show struck me as courageous, especially the wild bloody bird sex, and pretty balls out but Roxanne assured me she was just being honest.