Hearts of Darkness

Hearts Of Darkness::Oct  4-25

Curated by Janice Sloane and Marc Roder

Opening Reception: October 4th 7-10 pm

Featured Artists Include :Johannes De Young, Jordan Massengale, Rachel Phillips, Michael Endo, and Malia Jensen

I remember living in Miami in the late 1990′s and thinking to myself “Things can’t be that bad here, even though things are bad. I mean how terrifying can it be, with all this sun and water, ocean and sky?”

Well things as it turned out could be very dark, in the way that only the tropical sun can create so much green living matter so fast that the shadow it casts will blot out even the brightest pastel horror conceived of by man. Dexter arrived and brought to light how darkly red the hot heart of Miami pumped. And we marveled at how his horrible deeds could be rendered in tones of ironic black humor. To quote from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one can say that not only Dexter, but many an artist getting lost in their compulsive journey “…. has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination–you know.”

Being in New York, of course, defines hope for millions, but just as often delivers the everyday gritty darkness of having those hopes spectacularly dashed while life goes on skittering across the concrete. While living there I was fascinated by the resilience of artists. It seemed as though I were living through a roadrunner cartoon. Lifelong New Yorkers arrived to punch in each day as Coyote, be trampled or fall into oblivion, then pick their flattened selves up and start the chase again after re-inflating for the night. The mysterious artistic plans that are hatched after these drubbings can be peculiarly brooding and funny….what could be starker than the humor of living by the law of the jungle in the very brightly lit epicenter of contemporary American culture?

Now I’m back home in Portland in the “2010′s” (Though Portlandia reminds us that we are still “living in the 1990′s” here! Is it even possible to define ourselves by decades anymore?) In this city steeped in water, the Grateful Dead’s Box of Rain has become one of my favorite songs:  ”Just a box of rain, wind and water…..sun and shower, wind and rain…..maybe you’re tired and broken, your tongue is twisted with words half-spoken and thoughts unclear.” I admit to moronically being one of Portland biggest cheerleaders. What could go wrong here, despite the fact that people live homeless on the streets as they unfortunately do in every city; despite the facts of pollution, abuse and crime and corruption and an endless rainy winter?  Like the Dead’s Box of Rain, there’s somehow a lilting melody to these somber realities here. An illusion no doubt to anyone who suffers, or is it a brief moment of grace on a journey to retrieve one’s lost soul?

The influence and insights of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness are, naturally, universal. At the time of its publishing (1902) the story and the manner in which it was written were considered radical and shocking. Writers and artists of all genres didn’t regularly go to the dark heart of the matter of human desire, survival, greed, suffering…….but the truth of going “upstream”, closer to the source, and being lost there, corrupted and fallen in the shadows of a place we never imagined when we started our hopeful journey in the light of day, is peculiarly relevant to me and so many other artists. Co-curator Janice Sloane and I have chosen a handful of artists from these three cities of light and shadow, Miami, New York and Portland, each of whom illustrates in their work a vibrant heart of darkness.

Marc Roder