YOU GOOD? Exhibit Review
Written by Harriet Monzon-Aguirre | September, 2021
Stephen Oliver's YOU
G OOD? traveling seesaw sculpture frames painting by Reid Jenkins
Love Letter to Gen Z by Mary Chris Bailey Inspired by Mark Mitchell's Mixed Emotions
Focus on Your Best Self
I first found about YOU
GOOD? when I took my kids to the library. There were stacks of beautifully designed post cards to select and send to someone that might be struggling with behavioral health, mental health, or substance abuse issues. I was immediately drawn to the graphic design, featuring three women each representing different backgrounds. At first I was taken aback by the audaciousness of synthesising whole communities (Black, LatinX , and LGBTQ) into singular personas, but the images were striking nonetheless.
I kept the cards, pinning them to my wall, as a visual reminder to keep going as an artist and I'm glad I did this because this Frida Kahlo-esque figure smiles at me everyday.
The second time I heard about YOU
GOOD? was when I saw an online description of Stephen Oliver's traveling sculpture. A reminder of what it is like to be socially distanced but in a fun and interactive way, this sculpture intrigued me. When I saw The gallery at Creative Pinellas had installed a YOU GOOD? exhibition, I went to check it out. All the work is worth mentioning, however I'd like to highlight the ones I found personally engaging.
Focus on Your Best Self by Wooley Dutton reminds us of the expression "eyes are the windows to the soul" at a time when people are worried about others not being able to read their facial expressions because of masks. This series spoke to my own experience (usually in the supermarket) of reassuring elders who thought they were scaring my little one by saying "It's okay, he can see you're smiling with your eyes." The paintings made me wonder how difficult it must be for used to feel a sense of pride and autonomy by lip reading on a daily basis. To have that stripped from you.
That my friend is the best quality of art - when it evokes empathy.
Another potent piece worth mentioning is Mark Mitchell's Mixed Emotions; a contemporary depiction of Edvard Munch's The Scream. While Mark's rigid sections and lines are the exact opposite from the undulating design of Munch's painting, both are powerful expressions of anguish, and the recourses of solitude. I appreciate the teal glaze that cuts through Mark's painting, which seamlessly fills the gap in Wooley's work while alluding to the campaign graphics and title of the exhibition.
Finally I really liked the decision to pair visual artists with writers. Inspired by Mixed Emotions, Mary Chris Bailey's "Love Letter to Gen Z", encourages the youth of today and tomorrow to not feel overwhelmed by the issues previous generations have caused, to not be paralysed by racial violence, to not despair by the impact of the pandemic. She encourages them to continue to speak out. To demand justice. To march. To socialize. The fate of the planet depends on the youth, my children included. That's a lot of pressure. How can I help?
I encourage those who can to experience the exhibition themselves. YOU
GOOD? is on view at The Gallery at Creative Pinellas, 12211 Walsingham Rd, Largo. Open through October 17. Wed- Sun 12pm to 5pm