Once upon a time, most all fairy tales ended with "happily ever after." At Never After, a collection of works by five premier local female artists which opened at Visual Arts Collective Friday, Aug. 2, that time has obviously ended—or, at least, gotten a lot more complicated.
Featuring 39 new art pieces by Erin Cunningham, Julia Green, Megan Jones, Erin Ruiz and April VanDeGrift, the stated theme of the exhibition is fairy tales, but that term was interpreted loosely by several of the artists. Erin Cunningham's photorealistic oil paintings, including "Endless Bummer" and "At Wit's End (Pyramid)," mythologized memories of youth and summer vacation with stills of children sunning themselves and building human pyramids at the beach. Megan Jones' brightly colored arrows and targets evoked the Boy Scout aesthetic of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.
More directly adhering to the Never After theme was Erin Ruiz, whose colored pencil drawings triumphantly reversed well-known folk and fairy tales. In "Red Riding Hood," a girl in a red cloak drags the enormous, severed head of the Big Bad Wolf through low grass, leaving behind a faint trail of blood. In "Rapunzel," the titular character has let down her hair, but beneath her a fearless prince has been overcome by the brambles surrounding Rapunzel's tower. These horrible images are achieved with exquisite efficiency of line and spareness of color.
The fairy/folk tale theme of the exhibition invited both artists and viewers to play with expectations. As a small crowd developed in front of Ruiz's works, one visitor speculated on the alternate narratives she was suggesting for familiar stories, specifically: "Folk tales are misogynistic." By contrast, Ruiz's female characters could obviously take care of themselves.
Art lovers and the curious have until Sept. 30 to see how each artist interpreted Never After.