One Night Only: Terry Durst & Jon Gott at Silver Scuro Studio
On Saturday night (May 19, from 6-10pm), I highly encourage you to make your way down to Slavic Village to see the exhibition Blowout. In the storefront of a turn of the century building on the South side of Fleet Avenue, photographer Steve Mastroianni has turned over his studio to artists Terry Durst and Jon Gott for a show seemingly tailor-made for the venerable space. It is a lovely room – exposed brick, crumbling walls and old tin ceilings; Durst and Gott’s strange creations hang comfortably on the walls and look perfectly content standing in the middle of the floor.
Durst and Gott met at The Cleveland Institute of Art in the mid-2000s where Durst was a painting instructor; Gott was his student. They have been collaborating since 2005, and occasionally showing work together. Durst, a graduate of Kent State, is a well-known figure in the Cleveland art scene, showing art hereabouts since the early 1990s. He was once described by Doug Utter brilliantly: “Durst…uses fragments pried loose from the slow erosion of domestic life to measure ratios of beauty and injury.” Gott is more of an elusive figure – a recent solo show at Waterloo Arts consisted of a diorama/tableau of a Japanese cult enclave populated with pinecones (with googly eyes). What these artists share is an interest in memory and time, and finding ways to conceptualize abstract concepts and feelings using carefully collected everyday materials.
The objects they’ve created for Blowout are collaborative histories of accumulated found material, some nearly ten years in the making. They are hauntingly beautiful and disturbing, foreboding and inviting, familiar and strange – They are all these things and more. If Louise Nevelson and Robert Rauschenberg had a baby..? or maybe Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell had an orgasm? or if Miss Havisham and David Lynch threw a key party? Whatever it is, I like it. And I want to be there.
One of my favorite pieces is Bat (above). Protruding from the wall like a Satanic altar, or a Catholic one (who can tell?), the pulsating red monochromatic palette adds to the bleeding heart, Sacre Coeur vibe.
If you get in closer, you begin to realize just how many layers of “things” are holding these assemblages together. Bits of motorcycle parts, a piece of a toy motorcycle, sticks, bits of metal, rivets, beads, strings, wire, it’s endless. I imagine it’s a memorial for an imaginary lover with fiery red hair who died in a crash on his red Triumph.
Another favorite is Love Shack (above). Resembling a model of a sepulcher in a graveyard, overgrown with weeds and covered in years of trash, I fancy this as another memorial – this one to where an imaginary self lost their virginity in a dumpy graveyard, and then returned frequently to the spot for future exploits. While the object seems to want to sit on a table, it is instead hung on the wall, an incongruity that I love.
The form really does seem architectural, but the classical “columns” are chair spindles, and the “grass” is sticky yarn. I find another heart at the center, almost obscured by crusty bits of detritus and stringy unknown items that look as if they’ve been burnt and then tarred. All of these assemblages seem so old – and some of them actually are, started years ago by the pair, then added on to and altered over the years. Others are fairly new – such as Love Shack, which was created this month. But who can tell? I can’t.
The most intimate and moving piece in the show for me is House (above). I recognized this house immediately, because I lived next door to it for years. The large Victorian was once the Tremont home of Durst and his partner the late artist Dan Tranberg. Many, many years have since passed, and life has changed so so very much, but yet the house remains. Today I live on the same street, just a few houses away – my life has changed so so very much, and yet that house remains. Different people live there, but it will always be that house to me.
House is a large wall-panel composed of bits of building material, shards of worn asphalt roof tiles, plywood and discarded insulation. Clearly another memorial, and in a way, the centerpiece of the show. I hesitate to try and find a theme, but Durst and Gott seem to be trying to locate the meaning of home with many of these pieces – not just a literal home, i.e. a domestic abode, but the memory of home, of safety, of earlier times, better times and not so great times. All the times. Memory is a tricky thing. What does home mean to you?
I’ll end with another favorite, Casey Anthony (above). What appears to be a section cut from the earth itself, with the grass on top and layers and layers of roots and dirt below, a doll face peers out of the bottom right corner. You might remember when Casey Anthony was somehow acquitted of the murder of her daughter Caylee in a sensational trial in 2011 – the child’s remains were found dumped in a wooded area in a bag (she totally did it, by the way).
And while this sculpture might appear macabre to some, it actually makes me wistful. I’m not thinking of a dead baby, I’m think of all the dolls I once played with as a girl. Many with eyes just like the one grown over with cobwebs in this piece. Where did they go? I suppose we leave these things behind and move on. It seems like we’re always getting rid of things and people when they no longer serve us. I guess we’re all Casey Anthony’s in a way – killing things we once loved when they become inconvenient. I just needed Durst and Gott to remind me that some things are worth saving.