The comfort in confession

Artists spill their guts in Altered Esthetic’s new group show, ‘Dirty Little Secrets.’

Stephanie Dickrell

Depression. Suicide. Molestation. Nightmares. Nudity. Mickey Mouse’s high, squeaky voice. All are subjects of Altered Esthetics’ newest group art show, “Dirty Little Secrets.”

Confessional

WHAT: Dirty Little Secrets: Confessional Art Show
WHEN: 4 through 27 Oct., 1 to 7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays; 1 to 5 p.m., Saturdays; Special Reception, 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 5.
WHERE: Altered Esthetics, 1224 Quincy St. N.E., Minneapolis
TICKETS: Free, see www.alteredesthetics.org

The show is conceived as confessional art, in whatever form that might take. Confession takes a certain amount of comfort, and while artists might be used to revealing more of themselves than the average person, this comfort is still a necessary component, especially to bear one’s soul about their childhood molestation or the Freudian nightmarish movies running in their head at all times.

The comfort necessary for confession comes about in two forms, either through trust or through anonymity.

The gallery lends itself to the first idea of comfort. The gallery, only three years old and directed by young and passionate Jamie Schumacher, strives to bring art back to the people and away from the elitist culture that has developed since hominids first started painting cave walls. At one time, Schumacher explained, art was the critiquing voice of society, and Altered Esthetics works to restore that capability.

In short, they respect their artists, and the artists respect them. The gallery has formed a community of sorts, of both regular artists and regular viewers, where sometimes the lines blur. Much of the submissions for the gallery’s group shows come from word of mouth, Schumacher said, because artists have enjoyed their experience and recommended it to friends.

As a result, the show’s theme was left open to interpretation by the participating artists.

“We had a real wide variety of responses,” Schumacher said. Confession is seductive and thus popular, especially in an environment where artists know their work will be treated with respect. The show itself exhibits this wide variety of interpretation of the show’s theme.

Some artists took the opportunity to show work in this show that would be too controversial anywhere else, or simply not commercially viable.

Some took the theme a little less seriously. Mickey Mouse and Mr. Magoo appear in two light-hearted pieces, poking fun at the characters and showing their darker side. Mickey is seen sucking helium out of a balloon to create his high squeaky voice. Nearly blind Mr. Magoo is seen giving singles to a stripper, squinting the entire time.

The show’s title piece is particularly moving, where Kara Hendershot struggles to deal with her depression.

Leila Enevoldsen plays off the association of religion and confession, and created a gothic church where viewers can peek into the windows, seeing the sins of those inside.

The second way to elicit confession is through the promise of anonymity, which the church does very well. As part of that, Schumacher and co-curator Tony Tudisco plan to install a confessional booth, where visitors to the gallery can write and anonymously share their dirty little secrets.

As a play on the church confessional idea, the gallery will be “selling indulgences” at the show’s opening reception, a little play on the abuse by the Roman Catholic Church that led to Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.”

The deeply intimate pieces that make up this show truly confess their creators’ dirty little secrets. The show provides a forum to examine those uncomfortable secrets and provides every opportunity for attendees of the exhibit to begin to examine their own.