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1078 Gallery exhibition review: ‘In the Last Ditch’ by Jesse Wiedel

“Olga.” Photo taken by Katie Callahan, Aug. 13.

The new exhibit at 1078 Gallery, where I have been volunteering this past year, is a bold collection of paintings. “The Last Ditch” by Jesse Wiedel, depicts scenes of people in bleak landscapes, with bulging, red eyes and something grotesque about their forms.

In the description provided on the postcards at the docent desk, Wiedel writes how his paintings, “[illustrate] elements of American society’s psychic decline with familiar and yet uncanny scenarios that can be alternatively grotesque, comedic and horrifying.”

“Me, Mike and Kenny.” Photo taken by Katie Callahan, Aug. 13.

Wiedel is undoubtedly talented; his ability to capture form and color is exquisite. He has the delicate ability to create an off-putting tone that is difficult for the viewer to place.

I could feel a shiver down my spine, especially when looking at the piece shown above. The bloodshot eyes, grimaced smiles and dull, almost dirty quality of the lighting make the scene very unsettling. The middle man’s glazed eye contact seems to stare directly back into the viewer’s eyes as if he is alive.

From left to right: “Burning Bush,” “Helltown,” and “The Keystone Light Pipeline.” Photo taken by Katie Callahan, Aug. 13.

These pieces immediately brought to mind American capitalism, and in such a heated political climate right now, there have been many discussions about the faults of capitalism and its connection to the moral values of the United States, like the value of hard work and ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.’.

The bleak, subtly grotesque nature of these paintings, juxtaposed by the brightly colored, Impressionist-style brush strokes displays how, at first glance, the sinister nature of the paintings can be missed. This is similar to American capitalism and consumerism, where it can be difficult to find its moral failing from a quick look, but when you delve deeper, it is possible to see its disturbing qualities.

“The Circular Ruins.” Photo taken by Katie Callahan, Aug. 13.

While I would not place one of these paintings hanging on my own wall, I can recognize the talent Wiedel possesses and appreciate the message he tries to convey.

Art is often a critique of the society it is made in and in my interpretation, Wiedel’s delicate depiction of both ordinary life and the grotesque desperation of humanity creates quite a message and feeling to viewers.

Whether it be a commentary on capitalism, American society, or the state of our morals in this country, it draws the viewer in and makes them honestly think about the state of our reality here in America.

When you have the chance, see this exhibit in person. It will be up until Aug. 26.

Katie Callahan can be reached at [email protected].

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