Cold Light and Bioluminescence at The Fridge

The current show at The Fridge, located down an alley and behind a dumpster in Eastern Market, is not a normal show.

Not that The Fridge shows very much that is normal or expected, but visiting this exhibition gives one the feeling of swimming underwater.  Cool, dark and scintillating, walking around the black lighted space and peering at the works of art in the dark is much like snorkeling at night in cold water.

As always with an opening reception at The Fridge, art admirers and their admirers pour in a steady trickle through the front door of the gallery.  As their eyes accustom themselves to the black light and the lint now very apparent on their clothing, they start to filter to one piece or another.  Some are drawn to the Andy the Anglerfish video being shown on a loop.  Others, usually couples, enter the black room containing a vile of live algae that alights when spun by a motor.  Everyone enjoys the non-alcoholic pomegranate and orange juices supplied by the gallery.  I always feel better about art with a champagne glass in my hand.

The show consists of the work of three local DC artists.  Katie Schuler shows relief paintings of angler fish, paintings of deep sea creatures on dark backgrounds, viewed under the black light to emphasize their natural bioluminescence.  Schuler also exhibits sculptures made to look like growing plants, mushrooms and insects.  Or are they plants, mushrooms and insects made to look like sculptures?  Schuler currently has a solo show at Sova on H Street.  I am intrigued to get a look at this guy up close.

Beth Hansen’s cloth sculptures are the least ethereal of the three artists’, but they still have more than a touch of the otherworldly.  Firefly Swarm, a quilted cotton sculpture of many sea creatures bound together into one, could be at home in a semi-eerie show here at the Fridge or in a child’s nursery.

The last artist shown in Cold Light is Jeremy Tidd.  Tidd’s work runs from intense close-up photography of naturally occuring phenomena like lichen and oyster mushrooms to the Fluorescent River, a life size dry river bed constructed in a corner of the exhibition space.  Viewers are invited to run a black light torch over the rocks, making the fluorescent rocks gleam and sparkle.

Curator Jeramie Bellmay emphasizes that since some of the art shown here is organic matter, it is still developing.  Unlike most art, the pieces here may change from day to day.  The joining of art and nature seems to be the root of the exhibition: what is the more pure form of art?

Most pieces are for sale.  Before the show closes on June 5, there will be an artists’ talk with all three artists on May 21 from 2pm-5pm.  Saturday, May 28 from 3pm-5pm, Katie Schuler will talk about the mysteries of bioluminescence alongside experts in jellyfish and mushrooms, Allen Collins and Mitch Fournet, who will emphasize the role bioluminescence plays in the lives of these creatures.

You don’t find this stuff just anywhere, folks.  It’s at The Fridge.


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