‘Dark and Stormy Night’ Puts a Gothic Twist on Contemporary Art

By Deirdre Fanzo

From left to right, the portraits “Yoko Sato, 1968-1999;” “Tasia Brown 1982-2012;” and “James Otis Purdy, 1914-2009” by Heide Hatry. Photo by Deirdre Fanzo.

“Gothic sensibility sends shivers down the spine,” reads the text at the entrance to the latest exhibit at Lehman’s art gallery. “It is the essence of foreboding, never going out of style, just as it unveils the eternal moments of human dread.” The exhibit, “Dark and Stormy Night, Gothic Influence in Contemporary Art,” opened on Oct. 28 and features 34 artists who skillfully manage to capture the Gothic essence in contemporary works of art. 

The show foregrounds several prominent Gothic themes. The idea of a dark and stormy night is well represented in four photographs from a series entitled “I’m Made of Rain” by Isabelle Menin. These photos present an eerie, almost surreal, Gothic atmosphere. So do statues and paintings of tall, ornate, angular towers and cathedrals found throughout the exhibit, along with depictions of women shrouded in mystery. 

Among these conventional Gothic themes are a few surprising works of art. A series of portraits in black and white by Heide Hatry entitled “Yoko Sato, 1968-1999,” “Tasia Brown 1982-2012,” and “James Otis Purdy, 1914-2009” appears, on the surface, to be nothing more than a few paintings of smiling people. Another painting featured in the gallery, “Poe Crossing the Concourse,” by Daniel Hauben, portrays an urban cityscape in bright and beautiful colors. Both of these installations require a careful eye to find the Gothic within them. According to the label beside the portraits, the materials used to create them were the human ashes of the very people being depicted. The urban cityscape reveals a scene outside Poe Park in the Bronx, and in the corner of the painting, a rendering of Edgar Allan Poe himself can be seen crossing the street. The pieces are incredibly macabre and suggest the notion of life--or perhaps still-life--after death. 

The only installation that truly feels out of place is a three-dimensional tower installed as the centerpiece in one section of the gallery. It is pink and frilly, and while it could be interpreted as a Gothic commentary on the notion of contemporary femininity, this reading is difficult to determine and is one I am not entirely confident about. 

Overall, the most interesting thing about “Dark and Stormy Night” is the presence of many different interpretations of what contemporary Gothic looks like. Several pieces depict Gothic themes in highly contemporary mediums, like digital photography, while others show contemporary scenes with the addition of Gothic elements. This exhibit is stunning, absorbing, and in some instances, morbid. I would highly recommend viewing ‘Dark and Stormy Night’ before it closes on Feb. 10, 2018.