Whoever said that a picture was worth one or 10,000 words didn’t count on the picture itself containing any. We won’t do the math but, by that rationale, a new series of works from 16 local artists are worth a lot more.
Text is the main attraction and inspiration of Mark My Words, a new exhibition running through May 27 at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. We don’t mean long passages or entire book pages displayed in glass cases. Texting lingo, poems, random phrases and cursing appear framed by splashes of colors, printed on foam cubes or as dialogue in a nightmarish scene.
Dana Donaty’s surreal Champagne Dreams is filled with talkative and highly opinionated creatures. One of them thinks to itself “all of the deeply philosophical and pretentious arty bullocks I am thinking now.” While another articulates “the blazing color offers special offense, no?”
The characters are likely unwelcome guests to an artsy party or gallery opening and might represent the honest thoughts of the woman dressed in black holding a glass of champagne. The unfiltered conversation on display is both a treat and a break from a culture fixed on keeping appearances and practicing diplomacy.
It’s hard to tame our childhood enthusiasm at the sight of The Difference Between Them. The playful sculpture, by Marilyn Walter and Irene Revelas, is made up of colorful gigantic cubes with texting messages printed on them: Too funny. R U Da. Gotta go. Enuff. Admittedly, some slangs (werru, werja) had to be looked up.
“A great amount of time and creativity is spent on these new word combinations when changing the spelling, adding numbers, or abbreviations,” commented Walter, who began her text collection three years ago.
Her work sees technology as the great modifier and crushing terminator. It is actively changing our ways of communication when not eliminating face-to-face conversations altogether. Our first reaction is to join this “playground,” discover and rearrange, which is precisely what the artists intended.
“The interactive installations are to be touched and shared,” added Walter, “an opportunity for the community to touch the art in an art setting, vs. do not touch the art.”
Paul Gervais gets away with expletive language by removing one essential vowel from the blank pages featuring the following typed messages: F**K TIME. F**K GRAVITY. The asterisks might be the equivalent of TV’s beeeeeep but just like the censor, we don’t really need the full word to get the point. Gervais tells these universal concepts to take a walk and reminds viewers to stop obsessing over them. Life is more fun that way.
Equally dismissive is his third piece announcing “this text has been removed” in caps, which makes us even more interested in finding out what the original message was. Not knowing, the notion of missing out on something, kills us.
Even at 61 pieces, Mark My Words allows each to shine individually without overwhelming viewers, but there is also more white, empty space than we would have liked. The entire show can be absorbed in less than 40 minutes.
“There aren’t many artists in Palm Beach County that make using text specifically,” said Nichole M. Hickey, manager of artist services at the Cultural Council, who curated the show and came up with the concept for it a few years ago.
“You can look at is as a commentary on contemporary society and also as a nod to lesser-used traditions such as hand letterpressing and hand stitching.”
Mark My Words runs through May 27 at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County in Lake Worth. Galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; free admission. Call 471-2901 or visit palmbeachculture.com.