OAKLEY TAPOLA//ORGANELLE – Greg Rick//The DANCING Plague
OAKLEY TAPOLA — Organelle || GREG RICK — The DANCING Plague , concurrent solo art exhibitions of new paintings at HAIR+NAILS opening October 9, 2021. A homecoming show for two artists who came up in the Twin Cities and have cultivated strong personal artistic paths in California and NYC.
Oakley Tapola has previously exhibited with HAIR+NAILS in the group show FUTURE FUTURE (2020) and Greg Rick in RIGHT NOW (winter 2020/2021) and currently in The Human Scale at Rochester Art Center.
About the shows, in the artists’ words:
“The work I make is very much about intimacy and the innately intimate relationship we have with things that are small: we have to have a different kind of physical relationship with them, we have to get close to them in order to truly examine them. There is a vulnerability in that action that I find really powerful. Details and miniscule things are something I’ve always been observant of and attracted to, since childhood. This interest has evolved and integrated with my arts practice (examining something small has always felt like I’m looking into it, beyond the surface). In “Gathering Moss” (by Robin Wall Kimmerer) Kimmerer talks about moss and other small plants existing in the “boundary layer”. I like to think about my paintings existing in that space as well. The boundary is a less examined space: we pass through it. It is a place of becoming. It is where we find the things that aren’t initially noticed, that we subsist on. Anything that can take advantage of that space (both physically or psychologically) can harness it’s mutability.
I take photographs of the people in my life and physical surroundings and integrate those images as source material into my paintings. I see the photographs as relatively inert, fixed moments that the paintings reanimate to reveal a sort of “soul portrait”. The fact that I have complex relationships with each one of my subjects or source material is an integral part of the meaning behind the process and the outcome of each piece: the paintings are little odes to life in all its myriad forms: the confusion, joy, sorrow and humor that are complexly intertwined. The sculptural forms used are inspired by sci-fi narratives, nature, art nouveau symbology and craft. Their construction and final shape is guided by the respective portrait they incapsulate. They are versions of all that is soft, organic and forming and also inescapably otherworldly.”
“I see my work as History Painting promoting the obscure, the forgotten and the common
knowledge. My life has been full of tribulations, I look at them as initiations. For every hardship I endured my art has grown with me. My father went to prison when I was 7 for attempted murder. Although losing my dad was rough, him giving me two books, one on history and one on art started my infatuation with both and served as a means of connection with my pops. Similarly, art was a bastion of light after I returned from Iraq and help me deal with my guilt about the war. I find making brings a sense of stillness, allowing me to navigate this tumultuous, unpredictable world with an Ally by my side.
This work comes out of my personal experience but is not entirely personal. I tell stories that reflect my story but are not totally personal and are still in dialogue with the wider world. I explore the internal though the external and vice versa. Where myth gives voice to the underbelly, the lumpen in tandem with displaying the familiar and grandiose. My work tethers together seemingly opposing ideas as I teeter between the personal, the historical and the political. I approach my art practice with an uncertain confidence, or the certainty that my position will shift on many things given ample time. Thus, I’m painting not only on a political line, but a shaky political line cemented in humility and conviction. I occupy my pictures with characters who serve as archetypes in conjunction with memory and self-exploration reflecting on the absurdness and monumentality of history.”
Greg Rick about “The Dancing Plague”:
“The Dancing Plague” is in direct reference to an event that occurred in Strasbourg Germany in the year 1518 where a large group of people began to dance uncontrollably. This ordeal included between 50 and 400 people who simply couldn’t stop dancing, some danced until they died, they literally danced themselves to death. This mystery has been attributed to mass hysteria or a collective hallucination, but no one really knows. The uncertain fogginess of The Dancing Plague as an event echos the historical continuum, history is as much unknown as known and essentially becomes the agreed upon past which my works aim to challenge. I have been witness to mass hysteria on both the macro and micro level. Most pointedly I participated in the mass hysteria that gripped the entire nation post 09/11/2001 which culminated in my involvement in the War on Terror as an infantry grunt, engaged in heavy combat in Iraq. The name, “The Dancing Plague” is also of particular interest to me, where two seemingly opposing worlds come together to describe a unique event. The word “dancing” implies a joyous or solemn physical act of celebration, while the word “plague” implies death, suffering and an omnipresent fear. Also taking from opposing sources, and maintaining conflicting ideas, the works in this exhibition both push and pull, presenting visual cognitive dissidence highly nuanced in the increasingly polarized world.”
OAKLEY TAPOLA is an artist and educator. She received her MFA from New York University in 2019. Her work has been shown at A. D. Gallery (NYC), Titanik Gallery (Turku, Finland), and Oped Exhibitions (Tokyo, Japan).
My life started in St. Cloud Minnesota, I lived there roughly until my father went to prison when I was seven. Now I see my father’s time in prison as the direct result of fighting in Vietnam, at the time was devastatingly perplexing. I spent my early formative years in Minneapolis. From an early age I also found the bookshelf as a place of refuge through which I found I had a historical imagination, redrawing the scenes I was reading about and viewing in photos. The bookshelf full of my mother’s social justice books and both my mother and father’s history books helped me transcend the chaotic nature of my early years as I delve deep into thinking about history and my place within it. Art and Social Studies were the only classes that I excelled at. I found an accessible art all around me in the form of graffiti. Graffiti ultimately led me to halls of justice, where district attorney Amy Klobuchar prosecuted me to the full extent of the law. Trying to dodge my probation and the cold Minnesota winters I started to travel central America and Mexico was where I brought in the millennium and Mexico where I saw Orozco. Klobuchar was later to forgive me of my felony for an enlistment in the army, signing me away to the Army. I fought with the 101st Airborne in Iraq from 2005 (My father died in 2005) until 2006 and was Honorably discharged in 2007. My mother also died in 2007, which was to leave a hole in me, I became homeless trying to fill that hole. After coming to California for a second time, I decided to pursue my lifelong passion for art and earned a BFA from CCA in painting and am now attending Stanford for an MFA. Art literally saved my life and allowed me to cope through so much, all of which I insert in my work.