Salmagundi Library Newsletter | Autumn | 2022 | Ghost image review
by Milène J. Fernandez,
patron/library committee member
The Library of the Salmagundi Club is not only a place to enjoy its unique collection of rare books and excellent presentations, but also a spirited space for special exhibitions.
Currently, the Salmagundi Library Committee is showing Ghost Image, on display from October 23 until December 4, 2022. Continuing Salmagundi’s history of special events, from fancy dinners, to auctions, and costume parties, Ghost Image harkens back to previous Halloween revelry such as the Get-Together Dinner from October 31st, 1911. It was featured in the lavishly illustrated poster by Walter Harrison Cady, which can be seen until November 19 in the parlor exhibit Bump in the Night, curated by Bill Indursky.
“The Ghost Image exhibition is not just based on spooky images, but it’s related to the passing of life, and the spirit world,” Alex Katlan, Chair of the Library Committee said the day the works were installed for the exhibition.
According to Dan Bunn, SC Junior Artist member, who curated Ghost Image, his painting Life Force was a complete accident. “I started it on Halloween one year, and didn’t even know if I should show people months later once it was complete. While maybe the creepy motifs are not for everyone, eventually people saw it and appeared to connect with the sort of whimsical darkness, which has been super encouraging.” The painting is centered around a skull—the go-to object for vanitas paintings. “It seemed like a fun idea to make a whole show of dark and fun paintings, and with some help from Alex Katlan, we decided to make a small group show in the Smith Library around Halloween.” Bunn added.
Not all of the paintings in Ghost Image include skulls. According to Bunn, “I wanted to invite people who connected with the ‘spooky autumnal theme,’ and encouraged them to interpret this however they see fit. There are totally some finely painted skulls, but there’s also a floating dress by Rodrigo Mateo, and a portrait of pop culture villain Darth Maul by Kai Lun Qu, which you could see a joyous seven-year-old sporting for trick-or-treating.” Perhaps the works point to a world that we suppress in our daily lives—call it the “shadow side” or “demonic forces” that we would rather pretend don’t exist. But for Bunn and the artists in this show “Halloween gives everyone a chance to be spooky in a fun way. It’s an excuse to have a bit of fun in a serious world.”
In Justin Wood’s painting, this theme is expressed with subtlety and reflexivity, depicting a beautifully rendered skull, a crystal sphere reflecting the artist in the process of painting, a fly to remind us of death, and on a table an image of a demon that gets noticed only after contemplating the painting for quite a while.
Rodrigo Mateo’s painting of a white dress on a headless mannequin is beautifully subtle and mysterious, as if quietly revealing the absence of someone who shouldn’t have been forgotten. Similarly, the light and dark objects depicted in the painting by Elizabeth Beard, titled Head and Vase is also subtle in showing a contrast between opposites. Like a yin and yang symbol, light is reflected on the dark vase from the light head, and in turn the light head casts a dark shadow. Also, a subtle interpretation to the theme, two gorgeous landscape paintings by Jacob Gabriel give some respite to the otherwise spooky images.
While the Salmagundi Club offers a safe haven for traditional oil painting somewhat outside of the rough seas of the art world at large and it’s frivolity, some of the most famous members were actually illustrators as well as painters. Norman Rockwell, Alphonse Mucha, and Dean Cornwell were all members, among others.
“When Alex Katlan encouraged me to join the Library Committee and I started going to the events, I realized that this history of decorative and narrative illustration is subtly present in the Club’s history and collection, especially in the Smith Library” Bunn said. “From the decorated mugs, to the recently installed allegorical door panels painted by Noah Buchanan, the illustrative quality really complements the oil portraits and sculptural busts, adding to the Library’s charm. I tried to include a few pieces more on the illustration side, such as the Lantern Fly Web by tattoo artist Arielle Coupe and black and red goddess figure by Eddie Perrote, which looks to me like something you could find on ancient pottery for some long lost secret cult.”
Alexandrea Nicholas Jennings self portrait as Alice in Wonderland speaks to the tradition of costume on Halloween and reads like a tronie. While her tondo still life Off with her head – Circling the Rabbit Hole plunges viewers into a macabre trompe l’oeil. The show also includes a beautiful memento mori painting by Travis Schlaht, depicting a skull, a candle, and music sheets to remind us of the rhythm of time.
The opening brought a diverse crowd of 50 or 60 visitors to the Library, some SC members, but for many it was their first visit to Salmagundi. Library Committee member Amanda Micsak helped plan the reception and brought along a brilliant classical guitarist Vidak Radonjic, which made for a special evening.
Overall, Ghost Image gives us an opportunity to contemplate the mysterious, spooky, whimsical side of life. Let us not forget, we are all mortals. Seize the day! Buy a painting, support the library, and above all support the artists!
The artwork in the exhibition is available for purchase, with 70% going to the artists and 30% to the Library Fund of Salmagundi. “This is specifically a fundraiser for the library so that we can continue the conservation treatment of the books,” said Alex Katlan, chair of the library committee.
For more information about Ghost Image and sales inquiries please visit https://salmagundi.org/2022-ghost-image/ where many of the works are available for purchase.
The show is on view in the Salmagundi Club Smith Library until December 4th.
Dan Bunn will also curate the next scheduled exhibition at the Salmagundi Club Library. The exhibition, called Dream Space will be based on the idea of how books can transport us to another world, including landscapes and portraits that go beyond straight-forward representation.