Thursday, July 26, 2007

A sister visits Blood Brothers

A few weeks ago, I returned to my old hometown in Flagstaff, Arizona. I wasn't born there. But my spirit comes alive in the high plateaus. It is a place where broad sky and earth meet in an enormous cosmic smile.

The little town which used to be the site of weekly street brawls and one bustling breakfast cafe back in the day, has grown. Whether you are looking for a martini bar or a burrito stand, dining options abound. Art was for city slickers and out-of-towners. Now Flagstaff has a monthly, well attended art walk in the downtown--something that was once foreign and even unwelcome when I lived there. The weekend after the Fourth of July my friends I went strolling in the summer heat. Streets which once held anxious shop owners sweeping empty sidewalks were alive and crowded. Everyone seemed to be celebrating art, or at least giving it a nod.

We crossed the railroad tracks late in the evening. I wanted to see David Gianfredi's exhibit, Blood Brothers, at the Beaver Street Gallery.

The day before I had noticed the artist installing the exhibit--setting up piles of toy soldiers and a video monitor in the center of the first exhibit space. The walls hung with icons we recognized as emblems of war. Actual symbols of the military were displayed casually with other invented symbols like the medal in the shape of the Texaco logo. Flags from recent wars held passages from the Bible written on the back. The juxtaposition called to question both religion and our citizenry.

The night of the art walk David had time to talk. He explained that anyone could download the green tinted videos from The exhibit itself had been developed as part of his MFA--the imagery richly digested as the artist himself had served.

Whether the exhibit is a celebration of military culture or an expose, Gianfredi leaves the viewer to decide. A cold sadness filled the room for me. The lack of rage against what so clearly is destroying so much, made one in our group uneasy. Another thought the statement against war was clear and profound.

I was glad to see that the gallery, the artist and my little dusty town were stepping up. Speaking up. Other parts of the exhibit were installed at the Northern Arizona University galleries--both exhibits have been reviewed since I visited by the local weekly where I once worked as art editor, Flagstaff Live. Gianfredi had created the work in Mitt Romney country at Brigham Young University. I guess the heartland of America is not asleep after all.

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