Fever Dreams

Visions of a new generation


What: "Fever Dreams"

Where: Western Gallery, WWU


WHEN: Through June 15

Cost: Entry is free and open to the public


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The range of calcified-looking objects in Ruby Jones’ “Compost” photograph are unsettling. Pale porcelain hands stained with a dark-blue substance hold a range of jawbones, shells, spore-like objects and other unidentified subject matter. Tendrils of grass or moss can be spotted here and there—the vibrant green standing out among the bleached expanse.

The feeling that something isn’t quite right in the world isn’t just relegated to Jones’ offerings. In “Fever Dreams,” the exhibit currently showing at Western Washington University’s Western Gallery, graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts students embraced a certain ambiguity when they chose the title to the art show that was a year in the making.

Just like those who came before them, each of the burgeoning contemporary artists worked with a facilitator and faculty advisors who challenged and supported them as they conceptualized and created their projects and the resulting artwork. When it came time to name the show, they chose a title that seemed to best encapsulate what they were going for.

“For this group of young artists, ‘Fever Dreams’ captures their anxiety about the world,” a recent press release explains. “How are we going to escape the impending environmental collapse, the glamorized violence, addiction and exploitation that we see all around us? How can we get away from the oversaturation of information, cultural disorientation and denied identities?

“These are some of the nightmarish fever dreams of a new generation. At the same time, ‘Fever Dreams’ captures for them the power of art to go beyond rationalist logic and reimagine relationships and connections. Objects and ideas are re-contextualized, re-associated and re-conceptualized in their work. These are artists looking for alternate endings to bad dreams. They search for a doorway, a way of world-making. There must be some creative way out of here, out of the blind alley that imperious rationality has led us into.”

An element of fantasy or unreality extends to many pieces in the exhibit. In a painting by Jesse Alkire, for example, an archer sits atop a pale-pink unicorn flanked by two bespectacled young women wearing tennis shoes and sporting colorful butterfly wings. In a piece by Emeline Agnew, viewers only see the back of a blond woman’s head as her plastic-gloved hands fiddle with a nozzle connected to someone’s—or something’s—head. In an image by Abigail March, Marlboro cigarette packages are being stitched together to create a new kind of patchwork quilt.

Lindsey Hammerle, Carly McCartney, Keiko Scott, Ellery von Dassow, and Casper Truon are also among the artists for whom “Fever Dreams” is serving as a swan song to their undergrad experience. They and the aforementioned students have created an intriguing exhibit that also features sculptural installations, video, animation, fibers and mixed media that is well worth stopping by campus to peruse.

While I can’t promise you won’t be somewhat unsettled by the experience, I can assure you the exhibit will make you think. The students took their time ensuring that would be the case, while learning a few things along the way.

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