Discord is a necessary factor in conscious creation because when you know what you don’t want, you can know what you do want. So it can be a good thing even while it is causing the upset. In its acknowledgement, the theory is that change can happen. And there’s magic in that.
Art Rage is the gallery in Syracuse, New York that specializes in social injustice and political satire. It’s not typically my thing. I am so la-la-la lately, living life in a sort of happiness bubble of gratitude and appreciation, and not giving much attention to the national headlines that seem to keep others in a constant state of pissed-off-ness. I don’t often agree with the arguments. But I attended this art reception anyway – I do love when an artist translates their angst into something tangible that transcends its origins and hands the world something beautiful. And I loved every minute I spent viewing this incredible new work and talking to artist Jim Ridlon.
Discord & Dissent: Commentary on Contemporary Politics by Jim Ridlon is the final show this season at Art Rage, 505 Hawley Ave., Syracuse, New York, 13203. And it is truly genius!
Ridlon was not a fan of the political shenanigans, as witnessed on the morning news during the 2016 presidential campaigns. What followed was a bit of scribbling – sentences, words that he desired to expand upon via this new series of assemblages. Each one in this series is equipped with its own statement to guide the viewer to their own conclusions.
They are visual puns meant to take the sting out, to replace the discord with fun, humor and the strange machinations of this Renaissance man’s mind. They are outfitted in sports gear to possibly refer to the political arena as a game, as well as referencing his own history – football hero turned Syracuse University professor. There are clipped feathers found on meditative hikes taken with his son that speak of the illusion of the sanctity of government positions; rusty found objects from various trips to flea markets – hunting the perfect pair of old scissors or wood turnings, ropes/chains to bind the opponent in an intricate power trip. Well-worn accessories complete these framed boxes of objects, the human element that sets the viewer on this quest to create meaning.
Jim Ridlon is a true artist in every sense of the word and does justice to this art form by allowing us a glimpse into his vortex. I asked him if his studio was neatly organized – were all the scissors in a bin, leather bits together, et cetera? Answer – chaos! Lol, I love him!
Ridlon sets up his studio space so that he can concoct several pieces at once. They are on tables laid out in their frames, items amassed in nearby boxes first that speak to his mini manifestos. He builds, builds up then knocks everything down. Sometimes it takes over thirty tries to make one good product and once that solution arrives, it is like a game key that solves the puzzle and everything else just falls into place.
It is music to my ears when I hear an artist speak about their process. It is poetry. It is radiant and beautiful, and everything I love about creation. The work becomes the thing – important, all encompassing and his passion was just so present as he shared it with me. He told me that this process took months to complete. He spent days and days working on them and many, many nights dreaming about them. He was a man consumed by this work. His eyes sparkled as he spoke of getting just the right element to fit the case then finalizing and gluing it all into place – a culmination that is weirdly spiritual. Like, it was not about politics anymore. That was just the spark to the flame. An idea that took thoughts to these wonderful things.
Were they for sale? Yes, but he quipped that he did not expect to sell them, as they have an ugly side to them. I didn’t agree. But I guess this is the case with artists of all skill level and experience. The force that reckons with the making and manipulation of art flickers out once the discord that brought it about dissipates.
Thank you, Jim Ridlon, for inspiring me as my aesthetics professor in 1981 and continuing to inspire me to desire to grow as an artist. To want to take a dream and make it real, and laugh in the face of current realities that are undesirable. Outrage can and does make a difference when one is aligned with their ultimate source. And then we watch as everything changes for the better.
Jim Ridlon will give a presentation about his work on June 11, 2018 at 7pm in the gallery. Visit the website or call (315) 218-5711 for more information including gallery hours.