Nothing illustrates the current economic environment better than the term “fool’s gold,” which refers to a mineral that looks like gold, but is totally worthless.
Melissa McCaig-Welles, the owner of Williamsburg’s McCaig-Welles Gallery, has pondered the notion of “fool’s gold” for a long time. The current economic crisis offered the perfect outlet for her to actualize the idea. She gave the artists the theme and told them to just go with it.
“The title, for me personally, directly corresponds with the current economic climate and the disaster on Wall Street. The fact [is] that we all believed the hype and gave our money away to untrustworthy people, bought more homes than we could afford and basically believed in all that glittered,” McCaig-Welles said.
Her hopes that the artists will adequately open the public’s eyes to the current conditions, sprung from turning a blind eye to reality, were realized with the 54-piece group show. Twenty-five artists displayed their own personal visions of “fool’s gold,” in this glittering, sarcastic, in-your-face, political and even idealistic exhibition titled “All that Glitters is Gold.”
Connecticut-based installation artist Greg Haberny was inspired by a recent sale of Scarlett Johansson’s soiled tissue that was bought for $5,300 on E-bay. His five pieces represent the obsession with celebrity that displaces people’s values and, essentially, blinds their eyes.
“If you put on a persona, you can sell anything for anything,” said Haberny.
His five religiously-themed multi-media pieces are arranged in the shape of a cross. At the center is a wooden block with a plastic fork that proclaims it to be one of the original forks Jesus used during the Last Supper. To the right is a wooden block with a cut-up, gilded beer can, topped by a gilded halo made of twisted wire. Inside is a paper Jesus standing on a pedestal with his name and the words “Jesus Apparition Found in a Beer Can,” in the background. The top piece features a gilded spray can framed by gilded wings and the letters LA with a key at its side. The spray can is labeled, “The Broken Wings of a Lost Angel.” The left arm of the cross is a wood block with a torn-up Styrofoam cup in a biohazard bag. The piece is titled “Actual Holy Grail Found in a Staten Island Dump.” The foot of the cross is a wood block with a gilded crown and a small clear box containing chewed gum. The label reads “Actual Piece of Chewed Gum by Moses at the Red Sea.”
Video artist Scott Peehl considered the issue of celebrity with two video-paintings, or video monitors inside gilded frames. The first piece, “120220082248Miami,” is a loop of the installation process at last December’s Art Basel Miami Beach. A glittered screen shows the set-up of the Basel, one of the most anticipated art events of the year. With the looming economic crisis, the art fair was a big disappointment. However, the dismal sales at a celebrity-filled event in Miami does not take away from the importance of making art, said Peehl, adding that art is essential, especially during tough times.
His second piece, “121220021232Reflections,” is a collage of videos lifted from youtube.com, featuring numerous people singing a Mariah Carey song. The inspiration for the piece was the hype surrounding, and the backlash against, the popular show “American Idol.” The people on display hail from different parts of the United States, but are all bound together by the pursuit of celebrity.
Damion Silver’s piece, “Break the Cycle” portrays hope driven by faith in the current political leader. The gilded statue of President Barack Obama encased in a glass box with a hammer next to it, called on people to break the cycle of personal and political apathy and take action for change.
“Since the state of the US is in such deplore, Obama is the symbol of hope that has brought faith back to folks that may have lost it over the past eight years,” said Silver. “I’m hoping there’s no fool’s gold involved with this one,” he added. “I think we have had enough of that in recent history.”