Once Upon A Time…
By Tom Wachunas
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” –Joan Didion
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” –Graham Greene
Is all our Life then but a dream / Seen faintly in the goldern gleam / Athwart Time's dark resistless stream? –Lewis Carroll, from Sylvie and Bruno
EXHIBIT: Whimsical Worlds of Wonder – Digital Photography and Mixed Media by Michael Weiss, at Malone University McFadden Gallery, located in the Johnson Center, 2600 Cleveland Ave. NW. Open Mondays - Fridays during regular business hours. THROUGH FEBRUARY 4
While I have seen several of Michael Weiss’s works here in past group shows over the past few years, this collection of 33 digital photographic/mixed media pieces exudes an epic air – as in a sweeping, ongoing narrative. Call it a fantasy saga spanning love and longing, loss and discovery, desire and fulfillment. Aside from the tantalizing and facile digital wizardry that Weiss brings to his imagery, this exhibit amply demonstrates that he is at heart a mesmerizing storyteller who has given free rein (and reign, for that matter) to the proverbial inner child.
His pictures are enchanted scenarios that found their beginnings in book titles and quotes, song lyrics, and even movie taglines. But then, somewhere in the artist’s fertile imagination, such snippets of inspiration (sometimes identifiable enough by their titles) seem to have taken flight to unexpected dimensions and destinations – ranging from delightfully narcotic and tranquil to more shadowy and mystical. Yet even at their most strange, these haunting visions manage to somehow reside just on this side of familiar and accessible.
Weiss has mastered a technique that gives his surfaces a stressed, aged look that nonetheless conveys a distinct sense of timelessness. The characters that populate his misty, surreal or exotic locales might well represent real individuals and situations personal to himself, the artist. But they could also just as well be any of us, caught up in our own journeys. That’s the power of story. We all have one. It’s the one thing that can bring us together – the common road we trudge.
If that smacks of sentimentality, so be it. That said, many of these pictures do bring to mind certain clichéd sentiments: Home is where the heart is, or there’s no place like home, among others.
One particularly strong image in this show that marvelously embodies both the whimsy and gripping reality of life as a journey is The Story Carried Them Away. A young boy and girl are riding through the air atop a huge open book, looking over their shoulders at a distant castle. Falling away from the book, like a vapor trail, is a stream of letters. Pieces of their story, remembered but left behind, even as they take it to a place unknown? Another “sentiment” comes to mind: Wherever I go, there I am.
PHOTOS (from top): The Story Carried Them Away; Dropping Books Instead of Bombs; Gently She Rose with the Wind; Looking for Alyce