By Allie Zaleski
Come, take a ramble. Not only through art, but through timelessness, style, and cleverness. Kate Samworth’s Blackberry Ramble: The Adventures of Charles Willson Peale is a triumph of all three. The show runs from September 11 to October 11 in the Smoyer Gallery of Art.
The premise of the collection is based on the famed historical artist, Charles Willson Peale, who has come to life from his painting in a gallery of living pictures. Peale’s painted alter-ego sets off on a search for spectacular new creates to add to his collection, much like the real-life naturalist did.
On his journey, he bumps into several notable artistic celebrities, including Frida Kahlo and Velasquez’s girl in white from his Las Meninas. These three make up the star trio of the collection, as they wander from piece to piece.
The two women appear to be teasing the serious Peale as he determinedly hunts for new specimens, but he soon gets tired of the easy catch. The trio wanders through three pieces that depict the beginning of their story together, almost like three folios from religious texts. The personality of each character comes out, and leads the observer into the rest of the dream-like pieces, full of delightful surprises in art history.
One of the most notable changes takes place in Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte where the dainty, pastel gentle men and women have been replaced by Van Gogh’s rather rowdy and dark Potato Eaters. The juxtaposition, coupled with the charmingly recognizable pieces of art evokes surprise and laughter, as Samworth’s cleverness is realized.
Another notable crossover appears in Samworth’s rendering of Van Gogh’s bedroom, where the allegedly exhausted Frida decides to take a rest. The idea of seeing Frida Kahlo, who Samworth described as the more playful antithesis to the stern and scientific Peale, in Van Gogh’s The Bedroom is titillating for art students and lovers alike.
The final piece in the collection is a pencil drawing of the playful Frida finally encountering The Wounded Deer, which is an image of Kahlo herself as a centaur-like deer with arrows injuring her body. This meeting is not only striking, but shocking, as the collection has revolved around the misplacement of famous artistic figures, and Peale’s hunt for more to come stay in his gallery.
Frida’s encounter with herself is not only striking, but mildly ominous, as it reminds the viewer that someday the creator will come face to face with the creation.
Samworth’s clever collection is not to be missed, and it will make the viewer truly jump into the puzzle that she has created.