What do a wolf covered in tar, a knit Batman suit and a paper skull with fantastical insects have in common? These objects d’art are seemingly disparate, and yet the Mint Museum’s Annie Carlano, Director of Craft and Design, found a way to connect them. “Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear” at the Mint Museum Uptown (a Knight Arts grantee) is a quirky and relevant exhibition that juxtaposes art rarely seen in the same space. It features not only Mattia Biagi’s “Stay Out of My Closet” (the wolf covered in tar), Mark Newport’s “Batman 3″ (the knit suit), and Kako Ueda’s “Eros and Thanatos” (the skull), but also works from the Mint’s permanent collection as well as loans from private ones.
Running from March 3rd to July 8th, the exhibition explores our deep rooted fascination with fairytales and fantasy, along with the inherent fears often exposed by these tales. The timeliness of “Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear” could not be more obvious amidst our mania for fantastical stories evidenced by the bestselling hits: The Hunger Games, the Twilight saga and Harry Potter. It is no surprise that Carlano would seize this opportunity to explore how artists have interpreted and been inspired by magical stories, the occult, dreams and the unconscious world.
Entering the exhibition you are transported to another realm by Tom Price’s “PP Tree Installation,” a sculptural experience made from polypropylene tubing, where shadows and twisted tree trunks convey the mystery and unfamiliarity of an enchanted forest. Price’s work prepares you for the visceral experience to follow, but it lacks the foreboding danger Hansel and Gretel must have faced entering their dark woods. Throughout the installation theatrical vignettes shown on flat-screen televisions help put you at ease, explaining certain key pieces and providing comic relief from many of the otherworldly objects.
One such object is Biagi’s “Stay Out of My Closet.” The giant wolf dripping in black gooey tar dressed in a red cloak is unavoidable and draws the viewer into the artist’s own fear and anxiety of the popular tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” Biagi’s method is technically complex, involving the application of layers of hot tar and serves to capture the essence of the big bad wolf. Biagi also created Cinderella’s carriage, “Before Midnight,” for the exhibition. Another otherworldly object is Ueda’s “Eros and Thanatos,” in which exquisitely cut paper insects writhe and explode out of a paper human skull. Ueda’s work explores the fine line between life and death, beauty and decay.
Not all of the art works in “Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear” examine this darker side. For instance, Mark Newport’s “Batman 3″ exposes the conflicts in contemporary masculinity. It plays the hyper masculinity of a superhero against the femininity of knitting. The life-size costumes hang limply against the wall, challenging the musculature of heros and providing space for the viewer to superimpose themselves.
“Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear” is made possible through support from the Mint Museum Auxiliary, and the Mint Museum is supported by the Arts & Science Council and the North Carolina Arts Council. Several events are planned in conjunction with the exhibition, including a tour with Annie Carlano on June 12th at 2 p.m. and a talk by artist Mark Newport on June 24th at 3 p.m. Don’t miss this imaginative exhibition or the chance to explore your own relationship with “Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear.”
Mint Museum Uptown, 500 South Tryon St, Charlotte; 704-337-2000; mintmuseum.org. Open Tues., 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Wed. – Sat., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Sun., 1 – 5 p.m.