The most rewarding art viewing experiences are those that present a simple visual that provokes so many narrative possibilities that it encourages the breadth of imaginative extrapolation generally considered to be accessible only through the most wildly imaginative novels. That’s the experience I had while perusing Unwind the Winding Path, a series of new works by California-based artist Aron Wiesenfeld, up now at Jonathan LeVine Gallery.
Looking at this series of seemingly mundane, yet subtly disquieting images — a girl standing on the edge of a forest, two people in a canoe, a picnic — I kept thinking, is it really just about what I’m seeing on the canvas, or is there something just below the surface that I should be paying attention to?
In this way, the paintings in Unwind the Winding Path (the exhibit’s title comes directly from the poem Byzantium by W.B. Yeats) reminded me of illustrations inspired by a collection of short ghost / horror stories that I read when I was a teenager, called Lonesome Places by August Derleth. Specifically, they gave me an uneasy feeling I associate with one story in particular, The Lonesome Place, which gives the collection its title. That tale is about two little boys who have such vivid imaginations with regard to a desolate area which they consider to be haunted, that they literally conjure a living monster from their fears alone. And when you think about it, isn’t the most visceral horror about what goes on in our minds? Whether or not this is Wiesenfeld’s intention, he is on to something that is both deeply unsettling and attractive simultaneously.
A painting entitled Bunker appeared to creep out the majority of fans attending the opening reception. In Bunker, we see a young woman or girl, barelegged and wearing a summer dress despite the implied chill of grey skies, laying back stoically in tall grass adjacent to what looks like an overgrown Bunker structure. Is she dead? Has her body been dumped there? Or is she just resting? What exactly is going on in this picture? I like that there is no clear answer.
Aron Wiesenfeld was present at the opening, and I made a point to introduce myself and engage him in a conversation about his amazing art and its mysterious allure. I asked him about the painting above, Daughter, and he said that the woman is “growing out of the forest.” I like it. Aron was super nice and so was his wife. I told him about The Lonesome Place, and I am sure he has forgotten about it, but if he reads this post, maybe he will look it up.
Artist Martin Wittfooth Chats with Gallery Owner Jonathan LeVine at the Opening Reception
Aron Wiesenfeld’s Unwind the Winding Path will be on Exhibit Through December 17th, 2016, at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District.