Natasha Mayers & Kenny Cole: Men in Suits/Men in Trouble

“Mountain” Nastasha Mayers

ON VIEW: JUNE 6 – 30, 2018 | OPENING RECEPTION: FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 5-7PM, FILM SCREENING 7PM

“Men in Suits/Men in Trouble” is a two-person show featuring work by Natasha Mayers and Kenny Cole. “Men in Suits/Men in Trouble” is on view at The Harlow, 100 Water Street in Hallowell with an opening reception on Friday, June 8, 5-7pm. The reception will be followed by a short preview of footage from an upcoming film about Natasha Mayers. The public is invited to attend and meet Natasha and Kenny as well as the filmmakers.

“Natasha Mayers: an Un-still Life,” is the working title for a documentary-art film in the Maine Masters series about the activist artist. Filmmakers Anita Clearfield and Geoffrey Leighton use animation, live action, and in-depth interviews to get inside her art process and bring to life this extraordinary artist. The filmmakers believe that now, more than ever, audiences want to see truthful, creative role models like Natasha Mayers, who is known as the “best activist artist” in Maine and who Senator George Mitchell called a “state treasure.” The filmmakers will be present at 7 PM on the night of the opening to screen short excerpts from the film and answer questions about their collaboration with Natasha.
Much of the work in this exhibit depicts men wearing suits or costumes in a seemingly unending array of scenarios. As articles of clothing tie their work together, so does the idea that the men are in trouble.

They view a world in trouble, full of violence toward one another and the planet, with men, historically, at the center of the problem. There are the powerful ones who are intoxicated, gambling, dangerous, blinded, going headstrong without a plan, and those who lost not only their savings/jobs, but also their meaning, relevance, and dignity. Thus the work reflects anger, frustration, a sense of the absurd, and analysis of what masculine power, white privilege and tradition have wrought.

Natasha Mayers: ““Men in Suits” materialized in my work after the financial crisis of 2008, when the predatory practices that wrecked the housing market and economy came to light. The banksters were rewarded with bailouts and bonuses. They needed to be exposed, so I inserted them into international postcard scenes. Next they inhabited my paintings, looming and commandeering the landscape. They could get away with doing whatever they wanted, assured of their place and their right to be there. They were often the perpetrators, culpable for many of the world’s problems, but sometimes they became the victims of even bigger forces.

The subject continues to interest me because men in suits, at the nexus of corporate, financial, and military power, help to explain what we are doing as a country. They reveal our shared sense of entitlement and belief in the American Dream and the national myth of U.S. exceptionalism. They represent our intoxication by those values that put profit ahead of morality. We grant them immunity from prosecution and let them steal our jobs, savings, and homes, destroy the planet, deport immigrants, harass women, and make endless war.

In these enraging times, with a red tie man in charge, I’m still painting Men in Suits, but they are becoming Men in Trouble. Some are perpetrators, while many are hapless (and headless), intoxicated, gambling, dangerous, blinded, going headstrong without a plan, hooded, trapped in their suits, damned, and doomed. Some of the recent work sets them on fire, saws them in half, throws them into ovens, turns them into chairs, stacks them in towers, drops them in trash heaps, sets them against each other, strips their clothes off, ties them up, isolates or drowns them.

I’m expressing my outrage and disappointment about what’s happening in the world, trying to transform the anger that so many of us are feeling about power imbalances and injustice. I try to talk about what is scary and threatening to me/us with a touch of irony, humor, pattern, exuberant color, and eccentricity. When you view my work, I hope that you will get more in touch with your unease about what’s going on, and sense the emergency and the madness of it, and then go and change the world or get arrested or make more art.”

Kenny Cole: “I am convinced that being an artist, even a painter of flowers in vases, is a political act. Thus my art confidently veers in to areas that are socially charged in an effort to open a dialogue via an art experience. For this show I’ve pulled together a thread in my practice that explores masculine motifs whose identities have evolved via the guise of a colorful costume. The motifs or characters that populate my work have been written in to our collective cultural psyche to the degree that their identity can be recognized even from a small part of their complete costume. Alas they are all men in suits.

As an artist, one of the more powerful tools in our kit, color, defines our work significantly, depending on how we employ it. In seeking to uncover the sources of discord in the world I have observed that historically, those in power have found a great usefulness and purpose in employing color. Some to achieve political gain through say the pageantry of flags and uniforms; others financial gain through brand identity. Within this collection of drawings and paintings then, my task has been two-fold, to reclaim the unconscious influences of color and to re-work it’s collective associations through a playful narrative. In this respect my gender stand-ins are in trouble. They know not how they got to be whom they are and are being set to perform tasks and roles that do not necessarily conform to their encoding.”

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