Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sunny and Smiling

Being a city person, I can't often find a reason to go to Hanover County.

Sure, I'll drive through it for its bucolic scenery on the way to someplace else.

I'll even snicker at the humor of corny church signs I see, like the one today, "God answers knee-mail."

One reason I will go to Hanover County, though, is for art at the Flippo Gallery at Randolph-Macon.

I've seen shows by enough Richmonders there to know it's a worthwhile art stop for someone like me.

Like the show I saw today, "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On," a photographic installation bu Michael Lease.

And may I just say for the record, that that show title may be the best I've ever heard of for its romantic connotation.

Michael solicited pictures from people in order to make a group portrait.

Each person was to send a school picture from ages 13-17, a current picture, a picture of the pillow they slept on and one shot through a frequently viewed domestic window.

The high school pictures were fascinating just for the moments in time they captured, from what looked like the sixties to the nineties.

The current pictures presented a game for the viewer; how easy was it to connect the teenager and the middle-ager?

In the case of Michael, his school picture couldn't have been more emo looking, all bangs and intensity while his current picture was so calm and collected.

Others were impossible to see as the same person.

The pillow pictures gave away far less, although I thought it was telling that the woman who lives in Italy had a pillow on her bed embroidered with "The New Yorker."

At least four of the pillows had cats laying on them, telling the viewer a lot about the person.

But it was the pictures out each person's home window that I found most compelling.

A view of Prague and another of Berlin were immediately recognizable as not American.

One from Los Angeles proclaimed its provenance with pastel buildings and palm trees.

A Brooklyn shot showed a snow-covered bush pressed up against the glass; it was winter exemplified.

Another Brooklyn shot looked for all intents and purposes like a Hopper painting with many windowed-buildings suggesting intertior scenes.

The two Baltimore views managed to convey both the distinct architectural look and the grittiness of Charm City.

Richmond revealed itself in several of the shots including one of a flowering pink dogwood in a city backyard.

Not surprisingly, the suburban backyards with their trampolines and decks failed to grab me at all.

A view of a balcony in Rome with flower boxes and watering cans in the foreground and a pastel apartment building in the distance looked like a picture postcard.

Once I saw people's window shots, I had to go back and look at them again for clues as to how well suited their views were to how happy they looked.

Because for a lot of us, place is very important and where you live is a big part of who you are.

As for what my window picture would show, it would be a clay window box full of greenery and little pink flowers against open white shades with the branches of a tree taller than my 1876 house framed in it.

And the sun would be shining because it faces south in Jackson Ward.

I don't think anyone would have any trouble seeing how well-suited it was to my current picture.

As for the pillow that I dream on, it's fairly innocuous looking.

It's the dreams that I have on it that aren't.

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