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Play Along is an exhibit of recent works by Dodd MFA candidates Shaunia Grant, Huey Hyuk Lee, Jason Rafferty and Ethan Snow. An aesthetic of playfulness and colorful spontaneity melds with weightier themes such as childhood trauma, reflections on mortality, climate change and corporate deceit. The exhibit features a variety of media including ceramics, metals, photography, painting, assemblage, and collaborative works.
The title “Play Along'' is an innocent invitation as well as a signal of deception, a lie in which we might be instructed to “play along.” It is at once whimsical and sinister. Childhood is filled with exuberant anticipations leading to such disappointments that mirror experiences that continue through adulthood. Larger deceptions require more people to energetically persist in “playing along” for an indefinite span of time.
Shaunia Grant’s work explores microcosms of childhood play experiences through the use of a variety of materials and images. They create a space in which the recollection of childhood intersects with the knowledge of never being able to fully return. Huey Hyuk Lee is likewise interested in personal recollections, creating ceramic sculptures which “preserve the unstable body” of his history and language. Figures and everyday objects are piled into multifaceted anecdotal narratives that integrate a riot of color and form. In Lee’s works, angels and devils commingle with personages of the artist and people he knows, evoking mortality and dramatic psychological and moral dilemmas. A carefree, playful aesthetic underpins those surface tensions with whimsy and levity.
Jason Rafferty’s paintings, prints and assemblages associate an imagined space of early childhood education with the uncertainties of the planet’s changing climate. They evoke adult hopes for the future, tied in with the transition to renewables, alongside anxieties about vulnerability to natural disasters in a heating climate. Ethan Snow’s ceramic sculptures investigate how utopian thinking originally associated with the birth of the internet and social networks has evolved into sophisticated structures of social control. The scale of his cathedral-like structures is reminiscent of building-block towers and Lincoln Logs, yet they are stand-ins for the lavish headquarters of big tech companies in an era of stark inequalities.
Irreverence, the tongue-in-cheek, and furtive collusions with the viewer exist throughout the works in this exhibit. They reward close inspection. In offering fresh takes on pressing and relatable themes, and addressing anxieties perhaps shared by the viewer, the artists offer a grab-bag of provocations that they hope may be cathartic.