The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted daily life almost beyond comprehension, closing cultural venues in NYC and across the globe. As museums reopen and some restrictions ease, one option for Queens residents wanting to enjoy art in person (by appointment only) is The Garage Art Center in Bayside.
Founding director Stephanie Lee converted her own garage to make her vision a reality. “I’d been dreaming about having a gallery space for artists in a space small enough to do in-depth solo shows,” she says.
Here, artist Linda Rettich’s “Happily Ever After?” features diorama and glass dome-encased scenes from classic fairy tales.
Although Rettich completed all the pieces shown in December of 2019, the exhibit’s central theme of how life doesn’t always turn out how we thought or hoped feels doubly poignant as the world collectively reels from the grief, economic stress and difficulty with maintaining mental health brought on by the coronavirus and the lives lost to it and irrevocably changed by it.
Pairing diverse textiles with exquisite beading that so closely mimics textiles the two are almost indistinguishable at first glance, Rettich’s work focuses on how the darker endings of popular fairy tales are generally much closer to the truth of what humans experience than the happy ending many are familiar with. In some versions of the classic, Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t survive the wolf. In another, Snow White’s Prince punishes the wicked stepmother who poisoned his love by forcing her to dance in hot shoes until she dies. The shattered mirror Rettich has in her piece symbolizes the shattered dreams of a jealous wicked stepmother who was unsuccessful in her attempts to destroy Snow White and hold onto her title as fairest of them all.
There’s no question: Grimm is grim. As are the times we’re living in.
Rettich also looks at fairy tales through the lens of the #MeToo movement. A beaded-haired Little Red Riding Hood confronting the nightcapped, nightgowned wolf posing as grandma parallels a young woman facing a man concealing his predatory intentions toward her, whether he’s the boy next door or her wealthy and powerful boss. (Disclaimer: The person in power with predatory intentions could easily be female, nonbinary or otherwise self-identified, as is the case with the target. This particular piece concerns specifically a male-female dynamic and interaction.)
The central focal point of the exhibit, “The Princess and the Pea” fairy tale, displays the eponymous beaded-dressed princess arrayed gracefully atop miniature stacked mattresses wrapped in textiles from all over the world including Asia, South America, Latin America and Africa, leaning against pillowcases made from an Indian sari. One element included is Japanese sashiko, an embroidery technique used to strengthen fabric and add layers to increase its warmth.
Rettich’s wearable pieces include beaded collars designed with African Kenti and Scottish tartan patterns, so architecturally well structured and shaped it gives them the effect of being held up by and decoratively billowing around invisible necks, sturdy as wreaths. The collection also features beaded cuffs Rettich designed with fossil stones using a technique she calls “building off the base” giving the broochlike cuffs the appearance of relief wrist sculpture.
None of the pieces are for sale; Rettich’s creations are a labor of love.
As we head into the new normal, grief, hope, and just about every emotion in between intertwine. Although happily ever after may not be available; resilience is. The Garage Art Center offers, through an accessible local art space experience a chance to bring together the edges of the old intact normal with the new normal as it continues to unfold.
There’s no question adversity begets deep anguish and loss, but along with it, also the opportunity to begin to partially alleviate and alchemize it.
And that’s no fairy tale.
‘Happily Ever After?’
When: Through Sun., Sept. 27
Where: The Garage Art Center, 26-01 Corporal Kennedy St., Bayside
Entry: Free. (718) 225-4369,