Tender Terror?

"Hallowed Ground" finds a new crossroads of art and religion

Craig Johann's <i>Grace</i>
Craig Johann's Grace

What do you believe about God? Few questions are more charged or more personal. But it's the very question that Gallery Lombardi asked of artists in their international call for entries for their juried show "Hallowed Ground," which opened on Halloween night amid tarot readers, fire twirlers, and dead baby doll decorations designed by Austin legend Randy "Biscuit" Turner.

When asked what surprised her most about the nearly 200 submissions Lombardi received in response to the gallery's call, Rachel Koper, juror and Lombardi's director, replied, "No. 1: the diversity of the pieces. This is a very crowded show -- that's intentional. Over 100 pieces from 67 artists are being shown. From all of these individual, different pieces, you come up with a really strong collective. And the second thing that surprised me was the depth and emotional honesty of the work. The show is dealing with very personal issues -- these are deeply felt pieces."

Indeed, the artists responded emotionally to this show in literal ways that Koper has never experienced as a gallery director. "I had artists burst into tears of joy for getting into the show -- literally, a 60-year-old woman weeping and jumping up and down in my office -- and I had another woman bursting into tears because she didn't get into the show. I show a lot of art shows, but people don't normally burst into tears," she relates. "With this, they really cared."

A warning: This show is not for those easily offended by bizarre or profane religious imagery. Although scenes of ascension, grace, and even humor are sprinkled throughout, the majority of the pieces in "Hallowed Ground" are dark and strange -- or, at the very least, questioning. The "emotional honesty" that Koper attributes to the works led in some cases to heartfelt explorations of betrayal, violence, and anger regarding religion, not just to depictions of comforting, pleasant emotions.

"I had thought about dividing the space in half and having the bright, 'I'm-going-to-heaven' side and the 'I'm-going-to-hell' side, but it turned out not to be that simple," says Koper. "It's a much blurrier line than I thought it would be. The dark or satanic imagery in this show is scary, but also so tenderly drawn that it's lovely. So even though some of the works are portraying the devil, they're actually quite reverent."

Gallery owner and fellow juror Ron Prince sums up the dark-edged show with a quote from famed psychiatrist Carl Jung: "One doesn't become enlightened by imagining figures of light; but by making the darkness conscious." end story


"Hallowed Ground" is on view through Nov. 30 at Gallery Lombardi. Call 481-1088 for more information.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Hallowed Ground, Gallery Lombardi, Randy "Biscuit" Turner, Rachel Koper, Ron Prince sums

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