A Perfect Hell

Art show ponders whether we’re on the cusp of utopia or Armageddon

A leaf blower doesn’t leap to mind as the likeliest harbinger of hell-on-earth, but that’s a matter of perspective. It was that unassuming power tool, being used to manicure a lawn behind Hobbs Taylor Lofts in a futile attempt to fend off natural decay, which inspired Dave Loewenstein and Heidi Zeller to curate a modern convenience vs. inevitable destruction art show. “Signs of a New Apocalypse or Glimmers of a DIY Utopia” (which is open through Jan. 11) gathers a wide range of artists to explore the tensions of this tipping point in human history. Which way we’re tipping is, again, a matter of perspective. “I'm a news junkie,” says Zeller. “After weeks of absorbing headlines packed with words like ‘crisis,’ ‘meltdown,’ ‘collapse,’ and ‘disaster,’ it's tempting to get sucked into an End Times mentality. But life isn’t the stock market, and my morbid fantasies are giving way lately to lighter thoughts. Signs of dread and hope? It's all very ambiguous.” We gathered the works of some of these doom (or bloom) prophets and had the creators offer some grim (or groovy) analysis.


Hong Zang, "Clog"

Hong Zhang, “Clog”

I used to be fairly optimistic about the future, but over the last two years I believe we are on the edge of Apocalypse. My reasoning is based on recent news and information of the man-made destruction of our environment, such as Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and news articles. This is a result of an unnatural mix of human pollutants and the environment.

The signs that fill me with dread are the continuing news articles I read in the Lawrence Journal-World and other sources that detail the effects of global warming. For example, a recent article I read about the immediate problem polar bears are facing due to the melting ice caps. Of course, there are many other potential problems with melting ice caps, but details like this reflect a change in natural patterns. This fills me with dread.

My piece, Clog, reflects this view of dread because it is a change in the natural flow. Hair represents the human intervention and water represents the natural environment.


Jill Ensley, "Trouble Walking"

Jill Ensley, "Trouble Walking"

I honestly can't decide if it's utopia or Apocalypse. My gut reaction is to say "Apocalypse", since the economy's in the shitter. My friend who works in the adult entertainment industry might be losing her job. that's how you know it's bad. The world is vastly unstable politically, environmentally, and every other "-ly" you can think of. But then there is that blue glimmer of hope, y'know. And if it weren't for someone dying at a Wal-Mart on Black Friday because people had to shop, shop, shop, I'd say we're waking up to our unsustainable way of life. Alas, that did happen, so now I fear for us again. I do live in New Orleans though, and that means seeing apocalypse and utopia living on the same block. Like a sitcom, only with less com, more sit.

When I heard of the idea for the show, one of the first things I could think of as an example was those Segway things. I mean, how lazy do you have to be? I honestly can't believe they're still around. Then, the very day I set out to find material for the show is the day I came across both of the images I used, within minutes of each other. Serendipity, like disaster and good times, is very much a part of New Orleans.

On the whole, I like to think it's a slightly humorous piece, given the title, "Trouble Walking," but in a sad and a bit high-and-mighty way—kind of like the person who made it. Zing.


Connie Ehrlich, "Selective Service"

Connie Ehrlich, "Selective Service"

O C C U P A T I O N : F E M A L E

Woman. Mother. Daughter. Wife. Subordinate. Obedient. Subservient. Insignificant. Resigned. Qualities primarily associated with the female gender. Apocalypse or Utopia?

Dave Van Hee

Apocalypse and utopia are metaphoric doodads for suffering and pleasure. I am more concerned with drainage of home, work and loved ones. Sump pumps wear out—this fills me with dread.


Lora Jost, "Homeland Security"

Lora Jost, "Homeland Security"

I usually don’t see the future in terms that are so starkly black or white, but right now my outlook for the future is gloomier than it is bright. I do have to say that I “dread” global warming, the problem of poverty, and the war on terror. But I also find hope all around me, and I try to pay attention to and delight in everyday lived experiences, whether it’s reading books to my six-year-old son or cracking an egg into the frying pan for breakfast. I based the “Homeland Security” piece on my experience of coming home one night with my family only to find a helicopter hovering above our neighborhood with a huge spotlight shining down. I have no idea who or what they were looking for, but the experience felt eerie. My art piece imagines the helicopter as an arm of Homeland Security, catching innocents in its spotlight. For me, that has "apocalypse" written all over it.

Katherine Dessert

When we feel like our world is coming to an end, fear and dread usually arise. Most of us are afraid of change, afraid of the unknown, and ultimately afraid of death. We grip tighter when we sense instability, holding on to what is comfortable and familiar. I am interested in what happens when things fall apart and we loosen our grip and let go. I am drawn to the space between falling apart and putting together, to the place we may discover when "our world" has come crashing down before something new arises.


Eric Farnsworth, "Skyler Adamson on Shack-bike"

Eric Farnsworth, "Skyler Adamson on Shack-bike”

I have no idea if we are on the edge of apocalypse or utopia. But we have so many stories about the end of the world that it is hard not to see the daily news as the beginning of some cataclysm. However, with the world all ended, we wouldn't have to get up and go to our jobs every morning. So on the one hand, it’s fun to get people excited about the possibilities for a party at the end of the world. On the other hand, it’s also good to produce some things that would be useful, like a little house on a bicycle.”


David Loewenstein, "wind, exotica, refinery, leash"

Dave Loewenstein, “wind, exotica, refinery, leash”

Here's my list of things which fall into the 'Dread' and 'Hope' categories. Since I tend to change my mind about where they fit—depending upon my income, relationship status, and luck—you should judge for yourself where they belong: Lotto, WiFi, Slow Food, Mutitasking, Patented Infertile Seeds, Gene Mapping, Online porn, Google Maps, President Obama, Journal-World online comments, Motivational Speakers, Dumpster Divers, Long- range weather forecasts, Bio fuels, Graffiti.


tomking 14 years, 4 months ago

DLo:Dread = Lotto, Slow Food, Motivational Speakers and definitely the LJW online comments.

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