Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Oak of the Golden Dream and Other “Dreams, Prophecies, and Visions”

He Dreamed – 18" x 24" – 2018

JOIN THE GOLD RUSH! MAKE MONEY FAST! These and other enticements to “get rich quick” are found surrounding a twisting, twining papercut oak tree made of cut-up comic books in Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik’s new solo exhibition, “Dreams, Prophecies, and Visions” at The MAIN Gallery in Newhall, California (September 18 – October 12, 2018). His work is strongly anchored in myths and stories — often those of the bible, but also extending past those borders into a broader exploration of cultural narratives. His papercuts are a riot of color and voices, made of cut-up comic books he has reassembled to tell stories of dream and prophecy.

“He Dreamed” is the centerpiece of the show, based on the story of the first discovery of gold in California, in nearby Placerita Canyon. According to the legend of the Oak of the Golden Dream, wandering laborer Francisco Lopez fell asleep under an oak tree and dreamed of gold, then awoke to find some in the very ground he had slept on.

“But that’s not the whole story,” adds the artist. “Lopez was a university-educated metallurgist, and his success wasn’t from luck or a vision, but from actual training and experience.” Brynjegard-Bialik’s papercut is a gorgeous, sexy oak tree spreading its branches across the sky, and includes the super hero Sandman — who operates in the land of dreams — as well as cut-up get-rich-quick advertisements, “because I want to play with the distinction between prophetic visions in dreams and the realization of those dreams through individual work and effort.”

The rest of the show plays in that same arena; Brynjegard-Bialik’s work is a mash-up of traditional sources and contemporary story-telling techniques, recontextualizing bits and pieces of his childhood comic book collection to delve deeply into our oldest and newest stories. He uses Superman and other undocumented aliens in portraits of American immigrant dreamers, he builds a protective whirlwind of cloud and fire from comics featuring the Invisible Woman, and imagines Doctor Strange wandering the rocky hillside of the ancient and mystical city of Tzfat.

“Brynjegard-Bialik brings these different types of stories together in the complex but clean layers of his papercuts,” wrote Shana Dambrot for KCET Artbound, “creating new meanings for the world's oldest stories as he engineers these combinations with the architectural presence of stained glass, the whimsy of gilded-age fairy tales, and the meditative aura of illuminated manuscripts.”

The opening reception for “Dreams, Prophecies, and Visions: You did WHAT to my comics?!?” will be held at The MAIN Gallery on Thursday, September 20, from 7 to 10 pm.


“Dreams, Prophecies, and Visions: You did WHAT to my comics?!?”
Exhibition dates: September 18 – October 12, 2018
Opening reception: Thursday, September 20, from 7 to 10 pm
The MAIN Gallery

24266 Main Street
Newhall, California  91321
(661) 290-2255

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Kavanah – Captain America and the Flash Under the Hupah

Congratulations and mazal tov to the newest Jewish family – Captain America and the Flash! Or, Hillel Smith and Joshua Matz – whose rings include the symbols of those heroes. I'm proud to share with you that I was commissioned to create their wedding contract, and I'm excited to share it with you here.

It's driven by the concept of kavanah — intention. It’s a reflection of how Hillel and Joshua feel about themselves and each other; it’s about their choices about life, work, and their relationship — and how they relate to the world around them. It’s made with the tools and ritual objects of their trades, and the ritual objects that unite you at your wedding. In the same way that Joshua (a lawyer) uses words and laws to fight for justice and Hillel (an artist) uses pigments and pixels to create beauty, so they take these rings and drink from a shared cup and stand under a hupah. Our tradition is about making intentional choices in who we are and how we lives our lives, and no moment exemplifies this more than the wedding – in front of family and friends, living your kavanah. Hillel and Joshua both invest so much in themselves and in each other and what they do: their passions, their intensity, their dedication... their ideas and words, and the actions that bring them to fruition.

Speech bubbles from the first mainstream comic book same-sex wedding
(and Kirby Krackle in the kiddush cup!)

The structure is meant to evoke the Art Deco feel of the Majestic Hotel, where they got married, in an abstracted hupah arrangement, incorporating the tools of their kavanah (actual and metaphorical): pencil and quill, scales, compass and calipers — as well as the ritual objects that will be a part of the wedding: the rings and the wine cup. The tools are all meant to apply to each of the grooms — pencils and quills are used to write words and draw pictures; compasses and calipers allow us to measure and to create, and so on.

The lower corners feature many of the places they have traveled together

The background includes cut-up maps featuring many of the places they’ve traveled to together, as a reminder that whatever place you are in, that’s your home: with each other. The hupah is a representation of that home, and your marriage is that home — wherever it may be. Hence the speech bubble reading “this is the place.”

Their papercut rings feature Captain America and Flash logos, just like in real life

The background comics include comics from Hillel and Joshua as well as the artist’s personal collection, particularly featuring Captain America and the Flash (in nod to their rings), the new Iceman series they’ve been reading together, a number of quotes from the first mainstream comics gay marriage in the Astonishing X-Men... and Spider-Man, Daredevil, Green Arrow, and so on.

Comics used include:
Captain America #322 (Oct 1986), #600 (Aug 2009)
Captain America: Bicentennial Battles #1 (1976) – Jack Kirby oversize special
Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #1 (Sep 1998)
Captain America and Iron Man #634 (Sep 2012)

Daredevil #501 (Dec 2009), #430 (Oct 2003), #17 (Sep 2015)

The Flash #10 (Jan 2017), #21 (Jun 2017)
Flash Annual #3 (1989)

Iceman #1 (Aug 2017), #2 (Sep 2017), #4 (Oct 2007), #5 (Nov 2017)
X-Men #92 (Sep 1999)
Astonishing X-Men #51 (Aug 2012) – first mainstream comic book same-sex wedding

Web of Spider-Man #126 (Jul 1995)
Spectacular Spider-Man #189 (Jun 1992)
Spider-Man #80 (May 1997)

Justice #2 (Dec 2005)
Green Arrow #2 (Sep 2016), #3 (Sep 2016)