Additional Narrative Possibilities

My October 2013 solo exhibition at Curious Matter.

Additional Narrative Possibilities


Wet Floor

Wet Floor, 8 X 10 inches, silver gelatin print


ARTHUR BRUSO dodges narrative at one turn and embraces it the next. He begins this dance by using every photograph he has ever taken as the raw material for his work. For example, he may reprint an image he captured at the age of seven or seventeen and juxtapose it with something he photographed last week. He may do this in response to the visual structure of the images––an interest in how the diagonal bands of light captured in one image are a variation on the shadows in another. However, history, and specifically Bruso’s own history of looking and examining is a considerable aspect of the work. His photographic practice is built upon a perpetual state of review, reassessment, and reprinting. Perhaps constant looking is the task of every visual artist. In the case of Bruso, that accumulation of looking manifests not just in the refinement of his vision, but also in a rich layering––a photographic pentimento.
Fair Midway
Fair Midway, 8 X 10 inches, color photograph.
Bruso doesn’t share the documentarian’s interest in the story behind the events, people, and buildings he shoots. He favors explorations in tone, color, composition and texture. In spite of this, we’re still confronted with a curiosity about the who, what, where. The question of whether Bruso is attempting to use his imagery as purely “abstract” becomes complicated by his occasional use of narrative accompaniment. In his 8 part series, “Association Sublimation,” over one hundred photographic works are presented along with essays that are remembrances and meditations. The images of “Association Sublimation” are sometimes unidentifiable blurs and streaks of light, yet they evoke a portrait and a sense of the artist’s journey. He essentially presents a self-portrait of the artist as a young man.

Construction Wires
Construction Wires, 8 X 10 inches, silver gelatin print.
Additional Narrative Possibilities is comprised of 26 photographs. Among images of shattered glass, boarded doorways, chain link fencing, and light glinting off wet asphalt is a single portrait. The head of a woman is clearly visible against a snowy backdrop while her body disappears into a triangle of shadow. Is the collection of images meant to evoke a life story, a psychological portrait, or a formal examination of color, tone, texture and shape? Additional Narrative Possibilities is an invitation to look with shifting perspectives and intention in mind. What questions are we compelled to ask ourselves as we view the images? What questions are we being nudged to consider by the artist?
East River Pilings, 8 X 10 inches, silver gelatin print.
East River Pilings, 8 X 10 inches, silver gelatin print.
The urge to construct a story from Bruso’s images may simply be the result of a sort of tarot-like symbolism that is an undercurrent in his work. One of the first exhibitions of Bruso’s photographs that I had curated began with my selecting a group of 20 or so images from his huge archive. The theme of portals emerged. I was captivated by the many variations on the theme––a gate, the iron door of a crypt, the front entrance to an abandoned building. However, Bruso balked at the grouping––and rightly so. The collection was too constrained. We rethought the selections and varied the subject matter. The new collection revealed surprising relationships among the individual works. Ultimately, it made for a richer, more intriguing exhibition.

Glass On The Ground
Glass On The Ground, 8 X 10 inches, color photograph.
We can certainly respond to the formal qualities of Bruso’s work. Alongside that appreciation we can’t seem to leave behind an impulse to decipher and assign meaning. His visual language includes images that lend themselves to symbolic interpretation. Describing this exhibition, in fact, might sound like a psychic’s reading: we see a broken rock, we see a path, we see a woman on the path engulfed in shadow, and then we see a shaft of light. How far do we take our interpretations of the narrative possibilities? Like a psychic reading we might find some satisfaction, an easing of anxiety about a particular nagging question by shaping some sort of story. But questions persist. And so, we return for more information. The enigmatic photographic explorations of Arthur Bruso also inspire repeated visits, and endless interpretation.
––Raymond E. Mingst, curator


There’s a Moon in the Sky, It’s Called the Moon

Selene, Artemis, Hecate, 4" sphere, oil on wood: 

this was my contibution to There’s a Moon in the Sky, It’s Called the Moon!

There’s a Moon in the Sky, It’s Called the Moon!

Space 19 (bootprints in the lunarstuff 2), by Joey Parlett,  2010, ink on paper, 12 X 12 inches.
Space 19 (bootprints in the lunarstuff 2), by Joey Parlett, 2010, ink on paper, 12 X 12 inches.
Twin Peaks, by Joey Parlett, 2012, ink on paper, 12 X 12 inches.
Twin Peaks, by Joey Parlett, 2012, ink on paper, 12 X 12 inches.

CURIOUS MATTER is pleased to present “There’s a Moon in the Sky, It’s Called the Moon,” featuring works by Joey Parlett from his Space Drawing series. The exhibition also includes images and objects culled from the Curious Matter archives. To complement the exhibition, our friends at the Jersey City Free Public Library currently have on view in the New Jersey Room a volume from 1652,Cosmographie, a “chorographie and historie of the whole world” by Peter Heylin. According to the card catalogue, it includes a “particularly charming feature… an appendix…describing undiscovered areas as fairyland, the cities of the moon, the New Atlantis and Utopia.” Our exhibition offers a glimpse at how we depict and relate to the brightest object in the night sky. “There’s a Moon in the Sky, It’s Called the Moon” takes its title from The B-52s song. The show will be up for the rest of the summer.
The Moon is our closest and most obvious celestial neighbor. It’s brightness, and the fact that it seems to change shape has inspired myth and speculation throughout the centuries. As science usurped mythology, the Moon became the object of closer study–its movement examined, its phases explained. We began to imagine traveling there. Debate erupted whether there was life on the moon. In 1835, Richard Adams Locke created a sensation when he published that indeed, the Moon was inhabited by strange, flying creatures. Exposed as a hoax a few weeks later, the story inspired Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” and later Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon”.
Joey Parlett takes inspiration from NASA radiophotographs of the Moon’s surface and astronaut’s photographs captured while standing on the surface. His reimaging of the joy of exploration and discovery perfectly matches the general elation of expanding horizons and travel many of us share during this time of summer vacations. For us, we’re remaining indoors. The sun has been too hot and too bright. You won’t see us at all, except at night. Evening is the only time we feel relief from a sort of heat-induced delirium. We’re not going to do anything either. Our sole activity will be to stare at the moon – it calms and relaxes us. Should you like to join us for a spell, please visit Sundays noon to 3pm. Or, drop a line and make an appointment to visit during the cooler evening hours.By the mid 20th century, science had determined that the Moon was little more than barren rock circling our planet. Still, space travel had captured the public imagination. By the 1950’s there were countless popular depictions in all media of what our future in space would be like. In 1969 we had finally set foot on the silver disc of Selene, yet the grandiose plans made by scientists and engineers of mid-century continue to be elusive.
Joey Parlett lives and works in Brooklyn. He was born and raised in north-eastern Ohio. His drawing work explores the synthesis of popular culture with art history and personal narratives.



  5 -1/4”w x 8”h x 3 -3/16” - 
plastic, porcelain, murcury glass, archival board, steel wire, copper wire, wood, acrylic paint, glass

My sister Tracey and I were cruising down a dark, rural road. Tracey was driving. I had been in bad way after some major life disasters and she thought going to a psychic would be a fun diversion for a Halloween night. All I could see was blackness outside the car window. Occasionally, a pool of light illuminated a front doorway, renting the dark comfort I had wrapped myself in.
Angela was going to read our cards. She was the mother of a woman my sister worked with. Tracey had set it up and I was going along, because when you begin to believe that there is no future, you become desperate to prove that belief isn’t true. We pulled into the driveway of a low-roofed house. It was an unremarkable ranch. Behind it, a zeppelin-shaped trailer glowed in a silvery porch light. The metallic light and the odd trailer gave the unassuming house and eerie aspect. I had a feeling that I was leaving the familiar world behind. Inside, Angela sat at a long kitchen table. She looked remarkably like Zelda Rubinstein in the movie Poltergeist. Her hair was dyed a bright red. Her hands were covered in jewels. Why do psychics and fortune tellers adorn themselves so copiously? Is it to distract the seeker from their legerdemain, or is it a holdover from a nomadic people who put their wealth into portable assets? Angela’s ornamentation seemed to me less an attempt at gypsy costume and more a hopeful suggestion of wealth. Still, the diamond lights from her fingers danced around her as she moved her hands in rhythm to her talking, adding a sparkling aura that surrounded her; the star in the room.
As we took our places around the kitchen table, I noticed darkened doorways to other rooms offering vague possibilities. Angela reigned under the circle of light radiating from the lamp overhead. Before her was a deck of cards printed with “Gypsy Witch” in Halloween black and orange. Angela explained her process: she would lay out the cards and interpret their meaning. Occasionally a word, phrase, or name would cross her mind and she would shout it out. “They mean nothing to me, but they might mean something to you,” she instructed.
The reading began. In an ever expanding fan shape, she placed out the cards. They were ostensibly a normal deck with the standard trumps. What made them curious was the addition of illustrations of objects limned in an antique engraving style, complete with mock hand coloring. The images told their story: a house, a hearth, a dog - symbols of domesticity; an anchor, a key - symbols of luck. Mountains covered in clouds, “you will have problems,” she intoned absently. Her voice was a sing-song chant of information about the present and the future. Punctuating the placing of the cards, Angela blurted out names: “Agnes, Laura, Skip; do these mean anything to you?” “I don’t know where they come from; I just tell you what I hear.” Then suddenly, “Who’s Busty!?” shot through the thickening atmosphere. The incongruity of the question broke the heaviness of the moment and my sister and I tried to suppress our chuckling. “I just tell you what comes, I don’t know what they mean” she reminded us again, her face began jiggling with laughter. This gave us permission and we all gave in to the levity. We didn’t know anyone named Busty.
My attention had been on the curious cards and the baroque hands of Angela. Gradually, I became aware of the other kitchen chairs quietly becoming occupied. One by one, women, frail and cadaverous, unsteady in their shuffling, materialized out of the shadowed doorways. They drifted to the table, grasping the backs of the chairs with skeletal hands and joined the reading. It seemed that Angela rented rooms to the elderly in the final stage of their lives. These were her tenants, and the reading was as good an evening’s entertainment as any.
I don’t remember if that Halloween reading held any truths for me, or if the future it predicted actually happened. What I remember is the theatrical character of Angela, her good natured humor about her “gift,” and the near ghosts manifesting throughout the room. 
There are many methods that have been devised in our attempts to divine the future. Angela used cards (cartomacy), while Mystic depicts catoptromancy - the use of a mirror. Mirror scrying is akin to crystal gazing, or the use of any reflective surface to obtain images that are usually interpreted as portents of the future. It is up to the seer to make sense of the images that manifest. The seer is the mystic who is supposed to possess the sensitivity to access beyond the present and gain impressions or knowledge of other timelines. The mirror may only be a point of concentration to open an intuitive connection. It may not be magical in itself.
I would see Angela twice more, not because she had been particularly accurate, or because she offered amazing insight. Instead I felt a comfort, as if someone were attending to my particular problems. Angela was the conduit of hope for my lost sense of purpose. Somehow through the cards, her words, and the theater of those evenings, she made my journey to the future possible. Eventually, my interest in the cards led me to learn how to read them myself. They would become a path away from the blackness I had wrapped myself in. 

Mystic was part of the exhibition, “A Time in Arcadia” at Curious Matter, May 19 - June 23, 2013


A Time In Arcadia

I have a piece in this group exhibition at Curious Matter in conjuction with the 
Jersey City Free Public Library

WE DREAM of Arcadia. Whether it’s called Eden or Shangri-la, we long for a verdant and fecund place where food comes without toil and peace fills our days. Some cultures have taken a more proactive approach to attaining this dream and set aside land to build their own Arcadias. Persian paradise gardens and the Italian Renaissance Mannerist gardens were attempts, by those with the means, to create a place separate from the dreary drudgeries of life. Extravagant fountains and statuary complemented clipped hedges and trellised vines, all surrounded by a wall to protect the sanctuary.
Not all gardens were so grand and ornamental. Medieval monastery gardens could be intimate in scale and cultivated solely for food and medicinals. The plants themselves being the most vital component. For most life on Earth, plants are the base of the food chain. Their importance is nearly absolute. Relying upon the plentiful light of the sun for survival, plants create their own food. Often they produce more than they need at any one time. These stored reserves feed the rest of life on Earth. Roots, stems, leaves, seeds and fruit are all exploited by the diversity of living things to obtain their own nourishment for survival.
To read more, please go to Curious Matter.





Lion:  6 1/2” x 7” x 4 1/2” - oil on canvas, plastic, archival board, steel wire, wood, acrylic paint, glass

Hercules may well be the first lion tamer. His struggle with the Nemean Lion ended with him getting a super powered cloak impervious to weapons, and the vanquished lion becoming immortalized as the constellation Leo. These days the lion act at the circus may consist of an aged cat prodded to jump through a ring of fire, while PETA members protest that lions belong in the wild. PETA may have a point, but lions and humans have been pitted against each other since the gladiators fought them.

Lions are apex predators that bring down prey often larger than themselves. They are designed by nature to be efficient killers with their powerful jaws, long fangs and sharp talons. For a man to beat a lion he must have great prowess in fighting and courage. Throughout history these qualities have been coveted, lauded, and rewarded across civilizations.

The lion is also a sun symbol. Their mane resembles the corona of the sun and their golden color mimics the sun. The sun shines from Leo during the hottest time of the year, late July and early August. August is also the month when the Nile floods. Because of this, the head of a lion is often used as a font on fountains to symbolize the sun and the source of the Nile’s life giving water.

My inspiration for Lion lay with the banner. I have long held a fascination with circus and carnival banners. Their loud colors and sensational imagery would fire my imagination, often in ways that would make it impossible for reality to compete. There was also something horrific and frightening about the subjects they were advertising. Provocative and voyeuristic, they relied on our baser curiosities to capture our attention. As a child, my parents firmly forbade me to enter into the dim and creepy recesses of the sideshow. When I was finally able to quench my long held curiosity, there was crushing disappointment. What was so tantalizingly appealing on the banners was in reality often a fraud, or nearly so. The banner images could set the imagination running, but the reality was a tawdry ruse. This became one of my major life lessons in disillusionment. Was it my fault for expecting something impossible, or was it the fault of the circus for advertising falsely? A little of both I believe, even if Barnum did call the public suckers.

Still, the imagery on the banners stayed with me. On them the lions looked more fierce, regal and frightening then their pallid and toothless real life counterparts. The banner images lived and fostered a world of my own creation where such perfection and magic could exist, where the impossible seemed probable, and however horrible our fears, they were never a danger. -AB

Lion was part of the exhibition, Dangerous Toys

at Curious Matter, October 13 - November 11, 2012


Dangerous Toys

I was selected for participation in the Dangerous Toys exhibition at Curious Matter. Dangerous Toys was curated by SASHA CHAVCHAVADZE.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.
Step on a nail, put your father in jail.
Step in a hole, break your mother’s sugar bowl.
Step on a line, you break your mother’s spine.
Step in a ditch, your mother’s nose will itch.
–Children’s Rhymes


Playing With Matches

I’VE BEEN PLAYING WITH MATCHES FOR YEARS. I make assemblages of multi-colored matches that I display with historical documents and photographs in a “one-room Cold War museum” called the Museum of Matches. When I work with matches I feel a sense of danger and risk, but also the imaginative excitement of a child playing with a toy. The imminent possibility of both creation and destruction is always at hand.
To read more visit Curious Matter.
Artists selected for participation:
Arthur Bruso
Raymond E. Mingst
Debra Regh
Lance Rutledge