Victoria F. Gaitán and Leslie Nolan: Different Shades of Fear

While many kinds of narrative and visual art are grouped together into the genre of horror, fear comes in many different forms. Some horror is very explicit, shocking the audience with unrelenting, unpredictable bursts of violence and gore. Other horror takes a more subtle approach, getting under the skin through repeated suggestions, unexplained events, and pervasive atmospheres of dread and uncertainty. Covering both ends of this sinister spectrum are photographer Victoria F. Gaitán and painter Leslie Nolan, both of whom have exhibits that are currently on display in the Washington DC area.

Gaitán's still life photos are on display at the Artisphere in Arlington, VA in an exhibit entitled "Sweet-Meat Cherry-Whip Flip". In terms of horror, Gaitán's work is of a more shocking, overtly visceral nature. According to the Artisphere, "Victoria F. Gaitán's photographic series of flesh-and-blood still lifes visualize human subjects as meat puppets. The images are calling cards from the artist's explorations of internal worlds, illness, in-between states, shared delusions and hells, stillness, memory, interpretations of pain, private and public intimacies, trauma, beauty and conditioned responses." While Gaitán's photos (as seen in the example above) at first seem like snapshots of zombies running amok at the Food Network, her overall work is somewhat suggestive of the subgenre of "body horror", echoing the themes and visuals of David Cronenberg and Frank Henenlotter--albeit with food, not blood and guts. Gaitán will be at the Artisphere to discuss her work on February 25, and the "Sweet-Meat Cherry-Whip Flip" exhibit will be on display until March 12.

In contrast to Gaitán is Nolan's paintings at the Touchstone Gallery in Washington DC in an exhibit entitled "Off-Kilter". Unlike Gaitán's explicit visual approach, Nolan is all about mood. According to the Touchstone Gallery, "Leslie Nolan's color drenched figurative paintings capture the uncertainties of our world. ... There is nothing tentative about these paintings: Nolan's bold brush strokes and vivid colors create a blur between the real and the imagined, resulting in an impression of physical solidity threatened by emotional disintegration. These strong works convey a sense of society on the edge." Nolan's subtext of uncertainty and alienation (as seen in the example above) is similar to that found in the more symbolic, visually abstract films in the horror genre, such as Dark City and The Broken. It is also evocative of some of Edward Hooper's work, although with a much, much greater degree of expressionism. The "Off-Kilter" exhibit will be on display until January 30.


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