mary fortuna and adrian hatfield at oakland university art gallery
Nostalgia and Outrage
“‘Nostalgia and outrage’ is a state of mind. The title of this exhibition materialized when Mary Fortuna and Adrian Hatfield sat down to talk about their lives, past and present, and the way they make their work. Pairing the two ignited a mutual spark about their feelings concerning our world and their attitudes towards greed, apathy, and the relief of absurdity in the face of the changing conditions in which we all find ourselves. In viewing their work, we are invited to experience veiled optimism in the face of the challenging array of life-changing social and environmental circumstances affecting us. They impart the wisdom that we are not alone in our universal outrage and nostalgia and that we still have the opportunity to make the sacrifices that are required to foster a gentler, more healing world. So often these contexts appear insurmountable, but here, in Fortuna’s fetishistic flourishes and Hatfield’s hallucinatory slapstick harbingers, hope, humor, and despair are overlaid with their immersive, astute metaphysical buoyancy.”
A sickly-green hulking anti-superhero wouldn’t be my first choice to represent the search for happiness but understanding Hatfield’s enjoyment of horror-noir, his ‘Swamp Thing’ is precisely the monster required to quell humans’ ravenous consumption of the planet without saying a word. The putrescent green contrasts against the deceiving pastel palette softening the tragedy playing out like Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. Bright yellow high beams divide the gloom while granting the picture its key to an anchored composition.
Hatfield elevates the diorama—lovingly made from abandoned shoeboxes by almost every kid—to a 3-dimensional wall sculpture that integrates science and religion into an imagined Eden where the lamb of the Christian god lies down with Stegosaurus. This impossibly peaceful landscape contains a variety of plant life, rock formations, a tiny pond and, if the viewer cares to look underneath, roots and stalactites pull toward the floor illustrating the planet’s mechanics.
Using traditional techniques and a skill level that comes from years of practice, Fortuna threaded her fingertips raw for an exhibition that’s not your grandmother’s needlepoint embroidery. She, like Hatfield, takes passions from childhood to an extraordinary level weaving anger and anxiety over the state of the environment and culture into her unintentionally biographical presentations.
This executioner’s mask succinctly reveals Fortuna’s dark side where other works cloak this predilection in playfulness, even hope. Bone buttons frame a spiraled void where the wearer can scream out their angst over humans’ inability to make timely common-sense decisions to save ourselves.
Although this visual anthology contains humor and the fanciful, the cataclysmic trajectory we’re on is no joke. Desensitized by the media’s constant bombardment of horrific scenarios, perhaps Hatfield’s and Fortuna’s approach through comic strips and tapestries—notably absent the finger-wagging scolding—might resonate enough to move viewers toward a more responsible, actionable and compassionate course.
On view through March 24 at Oakland University Art Gallery 208 Wilson Hall, Rochester
*images are mine.
direct quote from gallery materials
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