Anything can kill with the right dosage, whether it’s fatty food, a beautiful yet deceptive wild berry or a radical idea. That’s how artists interpreted the theme of the “Things that Kill” group exhibition at Prographica/KDR Gallery in Pioneer Square. Nineteen artists contributed photographs, paintings and other media to the show highlighting the many things that can be fatal.
The artwork ranges from the light and witty — such as a ceramic piece titled “Donuts” — to the grim — such as the mixed media piece “Hatchet Job.” Gallery director Norman Lundin took on the challenging task of curating a collection that falls within the theme and is simply great art on its own.
“It’s more a show of art than it is about message,” Lundin said.
“Silence” by Evelyn Woods is an oil on board self-portrait wearing a black tank top, hair pulled back, with a strip of duct tape over her mouth.
“If one cannot speak their truth and is forced to stay silent, then that very silence has the ability to kill their spirit which eventually can kill the essence of that individual,” Woods wrote about the piece. “Throughout history we have been witness to individuals, groups of people, cultures and even countries who die as a result of forced silence.”
The Seattle artist also has an additional piece titled “Twisted #2” in the show. The oil on canvas painting is of a large tree with numerous limbs intertwined, twisted and gnarled. It also appears to be on the verge of collapsing on itself or something else. It’s set against a dark grey overcast background, which creates a sinister quality.
“Its Medusa-like quality has the effect of something that could kill due to the feelings evoked when looking at the image,” Woods wrote. “After exploring the myth of Medusa, I discovered how she was forced into having a head of writhing snakes as punishment for being a victim of rape. Another example of what happens if one has the courage to speak the truth.”
The piece that surprised Lundin the most is a photograph of a book by Seattle artist Graham Shutt. Initially, Shutt said he planned on photographing text from Plato’s dialogue “Apology of Socrates,” but, as he began to work, he “decided to make a book rather than a text my subject.” In the photograph, the spine isn’t visible. Only the placard nearby lets the audience know it’s a shot of the Bible.
“It’s all metaphoric and symbolic,” Lundin said. “It’s a beautiful photograph of a very simple object. It’s very difficult to do simple well.”
Another striking piece in the show is a framed triptych of two hooded men wearing sunglasses with a Black woman in between bound by rope and cloth with matches in the folds. Created in 1983, it’s the oldest piece in the show.
Artist Jim Holl contributed five pieces to the show. They’re an extension of an ongoing project called “All the Living Things.” For the show, he depicted poisonous plants. “I prefer the work to express an ambiguity, for uncertainty is innate in nature,” Holl wrote.
In “Madonna Bomb 2” by Dianne Kornberg, a pregnant woman is shown with a bomb strapped to her side. Kornberg said it’s the second piece in a series of four created to accompany poetry by Celia Band. “The poem describes a suicide bombing, while referring metaphorically, in the context of the project as a whole, to the ‘bomb’ of childbirth and parenting,” Band wrote. “The subject matter — a pregnant woman wearing a suicide vest, plus the included poetic and comic text, is loaded content, at the very least the shock of a woman surfacing as a militant combatant in a religious cause, a jihad.”
Lundin described it as, “The most extreme piece in the show but it’s a beautiful piece in terms of being a work of art and the closest to being content oriented.”
Many of the pieces in the show can be interpreted in various ways, which is the beauty of art.
“It’s a two-way street,” Lundin said. “You can’t act without an audience, you can’t paint without an audience, you can’t write poetry without an audience. The audience is the receiver of what the artist sends out and the receiver is going to interpret everything differently.”
The show has been well received and Lundin is already considering organizing a part two.
“Most people want to see something dark, that’s the nature of things. They want to see something sinister,” Lundin said. “That’s just human nature.”
Lundin accomplishes his goal. “Things that Kill” isn’t a heavy-handed indictment on the dangers awaiting all of us. Rather it’s a collection of striking and intriguing art. There’s no bright flashing sign alerting vistors to the theme. Finding the commonality is up to the audience.
The show runs until Oct. 29. Prographica/KDR is at 313 Occidental Ave. S.