Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination in 2012

Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination

Regular readers know that I live in the Nashville area. I was thrilled this past week when the Frist Center for the Visual Arts announced its upcoming exhibits for 2012 and one included fairy tales. It doesn't open until February 2012 here in Nashville but it will travel to two locations in Canada after it leaves here.

From the Frist Center's Press Release:
Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination
Feb. 24–May 29, 2012
Upper-Level Galleries
Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination is an exhibition of works by contemporary artists who invent humanlike, animal or hybrid creatures to symbolize life's mysteries, desires and fears. Finding inspiration in sources ranging from Aesop's Fables to the products of genetic experimentation, the artists in the exhibition examine interactions between nature and humanity in the context of oral and written lore, psychology, ethics and visions of the future in both science and science fiction. The exhibition will include approximately 60 contemporary paintings, photographs, sculptures and video works.
This exhibition is organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and curated by Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala.

The exhibition will travel to Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba, Canada: June 15–Sept. 9, 2012, and to the Glenbow Art Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Sept. 28–Jan. 2, 2013.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by Vanderbilt University Press.

The publisher description for the exhibition catalog provides a little more information as well as the image at the top of the post. It also includes essays from Jack Zipes and Marina Warner, superstars in fairy tale academia. Here's the description:

This catalog explores the psychological and social implications contained in the hybrid creatures and fantastic scenarios created by contemporary artists whose works will appear in the exhibition Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, which opens at Nashville's Frist Center for the Visual Arts in February 2012. Curator Mark Scala's introductory essay focuses on anthropomorphism in the mythology, folklore, and art of many cultures as it contrasts with the dominant Western view of human exceptionalism. Scala also provides an art historical context, linking the visual fabulists of today to artists of the Romantic, Symbolist, and Surrealist periods who sought to transcend oppositions such as rationality and intuition, fear and desire, the physical and the spiritual.

Discussing how artists adapt traditional stories to give mythic form to the very real dilemmas of contemporary life, Jack Zipes's "Fairy-Tale Collisions" centers on Paula Rego, Kiki Smith, and Cindy Sherman. From a generation of women who have attained prominence since the 1980s, these artists alter fairy-tale imagery to subvert or rewrite social roles and codes.

In "Metamorphosis of the Monstrous," Marina Warner discusses works in the exhibition in the context of historical conceptions of monsters as expressions of alterity, bestiality, or sinfulness. Her reminder that contemporary monster images offer "a promise and a warning about the variety, heterogeneity, and possible combinations and recombinations in the order of things" sets the stage for Suzanne Anker's essay, punningly titled "The Extant Vamp (or the) Ire of It All: Fairy Tales and Genetic Engineering." Considering representations of hybrid bodies by Patricia Piccinini, Janaina Tschape, Saya Woolfalk, and others, which evoke imagined beings of the past as a way to envision the recombinant creatures that may lie in the future, Anker shows how artists explore the social, ethical, and future implications of biological design and enhanced evolution.

Accompanying an exhibition of contemporary art in which depictions of marvelous creatures and fantastic narratives provide both chills and delights, the essays in Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination explore the meaning of this fabulist revival through the lenses of social and art history, literature, feminism, animal studies, and science.
I am thrilled I will get to see the exhibit without traveling--and I am a Frist member, so that works, too!--and the catalog looks like a great addition to my library. If you are in the Nashville area anytime between February and May next year, include the Frist Center on your itinerary. (It's also right down the street from my high school alma mater.)


  1. This looks so cool! I might have to pay a visit to a cousin in Nashville next spring...

  2. Ooooh, finally an excuse for me to go to the Frist Center! Definitely keeping an eye out for this.