New exhibit invites viewers to respond
Nearly a year after opening Beacon’s Garage Gallery on North Elm Street with Scott Lerman, Susan Keiser is exhibiting her own work, along with paintings from Judy Riola.
Untold Stories exemplifies how paired artists feed off each other at Garage Gallery, a divided space, accessible through a rolled-up garage door, where artwork is displayed with a minimum of accompanying text so viewers can form their own conclusions about how the work is generated and what reactions it invokes in them.
According to Keiser’s notes for the exhibit, social media “is changing our expectations for how we should tell stories. Words and pictures flood our screens, coming in short bursts that encourage us to engage momentarily and move on.” Viewers are conditioned to “consume,” rather than interact, she writes.
The challenge for artists is to get viewers to consider and respond to what they see, says Keiser, because “some stories can’t be told, they must be experienced.”
In “Barbaric Glass,” the portfolio of images she is showing, Keiser works with several components, chiefly a set of 4-inch-high dolls mass-produced in the 1950s and found on eBay, to create tableaux. The dolls, such as a mother wearing pumps and a father sporting a double-breasted suit with pocket square, “have power beyond their size,” combining with other miniature paraphernalia from the period to embody “middle-class culture,” she says.
Keiser then photographs the works through sheets of ice. The medium “fractures” and “multiplies” the art, creating a new context and resulting story from what emerges.
“They address both individual and cultural histories,” says Keiser, “and no longer have pristine facades; they reflect what happens to people, and to societies, over time.”
Accompanying Keiser’s tableaux are Riola’s abstract paintings. According to the gallery notes, they depict colliding patterns and shapes in which “animal and human figures have muscled their way onto her canvases, creating a unique sense of space and offering new interpretive possibilities.”
Steering a new gallery through a pandemic has brought challenges, but also unexpected positives, Keiser says, noting that she and Lerman, whose background is in branding while hers is in horticulture, run the space jointly, each bringing specific expertise to it.
First among the challenges is still getting people in (or under, in this case) the door at the off-Main Street gallery. Weather has been more of a factor than expected, she says, and spreading the word about the gallery is proving harder than anticipated.
Still, having the garage door open is an “ice-breaker” that lures passersby into the gallery and their garden, says Keiser. Some of the gallery’s best customers have been “kids and leashed dogs,” she says.
“We could probably program in a way to invoke more outrage, to get people in, but that’s not at all what we’re about,” she added. “Our goals are to accomplish showing good work, and not promoting a point of view from us.”
Untold Stories opens at Garage Gallery (garagegallery.com), 11 North Elm St., on July 9, with an opening reception from 4 to 7 p.m., and runs through July 24. The gallery is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m., and for Second Saturdays, 4 to 7 p.m. It will open for extended hours, from noon to 5 p.m., for Upstate Art Weekend, July 22 to 24.