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Queens Chronicle

High anxiety, with some subtlety, at Dorsky

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Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2017 10:30 am

Dreadful moments appear to freeze emotions in time, but appearances can be deceiving.

Fear, anxiety and dread are eventually processed into our new normal. These dynamics are explored, usually subtly, in “First I Was Afraid ...” a group show of 11 artists at the Dorsky Gallery in Long Island City, now through Nov. 19.

“I think it’s universal; we can be fearful, and I think it’s how you channel it,” said Liz Blum, guest curator, who was inspired by fears that arose in her family around decision-making and prompted her to consider wider themes of fear, anxiety and dread.

The first series she chose for this show is by fine art photographer Tabitha Soren, formerly a news reporter for MTV, ABC and NBC. The photos depict staged ambiguous situations with significant parts of their stories occurring beyond the frame.

In “Running, Elizabeth,” a woman with a grave expression exits a swimming hole while people in the background remain deep in the drink. Are the swimmers dangerous, or in danger? Or is she just “hangry”?

Humor consorts with fear in the exhibit. Blum notes that fear processing takes many routes. She included a variety of media to illustrate the multiple avenues for addressing the topic, and she is pleased that the prevalence of colorful works brings levity.

Lauren McCarthy’s short film “Follower” turns paranoia on its head, the star musing as she goes about enjoying her day how nice it would be for someone to follow her around. There’s an app for that, http://follower.today, where you can solicit a follower to spend a day following you.

Another short film, Will Gill’s creepy “No Man’s Land,” intersperses scenes of what is possibly a mannequin’s suicidal freeze-drowning with scenes of a man building a campfire on ice.

Artist Sandra Erbacher, who attended the exhibit’s opening reception last Sunday, said her art grows out of her education in sociology and cultural studies, which examine power relationships.

Erbacher considers bureaucracies and the hierarchies within, “the office as iron curtain.” She alters and photographs talismans of 1970s and 1980s offices.

In “CTRL+ALT+DEL 2015,” she whites out the numbers, letters and symbols on a computer keyboard, imagining the device has rebelliously whited itself out. She is partial to her photo of a fan she rendered inoperative by filling it with cement. Some of her favorite work involves heavy paperweights that feel male and powerful.

“I’m looking at the objects you will normally find in an office space to support efficiency, the rational day-to-day operations of an office, and then I’ll create an intervention to render the object useless,” Erbacher said.

Susanna Hertrich uses statistics and personal interpretation for graphic illustrations of the contrast between perceived and actual risk. One reveals greater fear in a particular year of a small risk of terrorism than of the grave risk posed by an ongoing heat wave.

“Risk is a special construction,” a mix of actual and perceived dangers, Hertrich said.

“Please take your seat” was created by Amy Archambault, artist and new mother of a son.

“I have a lot of concerns about his future and how we’re raising our children,” she said. She created the sculpture from the perspective of a 10-year-old, inspired by a friend’s story about a librarian admonishing dancing kids, “Please take your seat, you’re distracting the musician.” It’s a chair impossible to sit in, stuffed as it is with objects like the “boppy pillow” used to help some infants sit, and it fairly vomits the carpet tiles tots sit on when they “enjoy” story time.

Archambault’s “You Can Survive” gathers survival supplies such as aspirin, a battery, and a tennis ball, for survival play.

“I’m looking for solutions that bring a sense of optimism to a situation,” she said.

‘First I Was Afraid...’

When: Through Sunday, Nov. 19

Where: Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, 11-03 45 Ave., Long Island City

Entry: Free. (718) 937-6317, dorsky.org

Welcome to the discussion.