Dominic Cretara’s “20 Years of Painting and Drawing” exhibit at the Triton Museum of Art draws on the emotions of its viewers.
An odd sadness comes over the viewer when looking at the family portraits in the museum’s Rotunda. Cretara, himself, is not a sad man, but the color choices and positioning of his subjects, gives off a feeling of despair. The paintings could be memories slowly slipping away from the artist as time takes over as there is a bit of a surreal quality to the artwork.
From there, the exhibit only gets more intense. A warning sign is set out in front of the back hallway alerting visitors to the sensitive subjects of the three paintings against the wall.
Trekking further into the depths of the museum, and entering the Warburton Gallery through the back entryway, visitors find themselves face-to-face with a bizarre set of art pieces.
Just inside the back entrance, are a set of paintings that encompass the OJ Simpson murder trial – two victims, mostly naked, laying stiff on artistic slabs, an ominous hooded figure stands in front of a wall, a judge with a striking resemblance to Judge Lance Ito meditates on a rocking horse, and a lawyer with features similar to attorney Robert Shapiro has his “day of atonement.”
The Simpson series leads into an even weirder set of paintings comprised of dolls. “The dolls can be viewed as straight fodder for Cretara’s still lifes: inanimate objects of interest because of their familiarity,” reads “How to Look. What Should We See in the Doll Paintings?” “In this sense, the dolls are objects that act as vehicles for the artist’s technique. We note the loose brush work and the economy of detail he applies with confidence, as comes to a master after decades of honing his art. We can appreciate the drama of the chiaroscuro and how it heightens the drama, elevating these disembodied toys to objects of contemplation, but without a guide to show us what we are to contemplate, the common viewer may be left adrift. It is the function of the viewer to move beyond the surface appreciations of technique and lighting, to delve into what the subject means to us…and there is a message.
“Were these paintings meant to convey nothing more than the artist’s skill, then such surface readings would be appropriate, however limited that made the art. This looking at a painting as prose, rather than poetry, which is a language that demands contemplation, demands to be penetrated to unmask the metaphors they convey. With this understanding, we now know that the dolls are symbols, but symbols of what? … Symbols of humanity.”
The dolls transition into three doorways and on the other side of the main entrance, three additional paintings, one with a bit of a mafia them and two of which have ethereal beings.
Cretara’s collection is not to be taken lightly. It feeds on the viewer’s emotions and are as much a grouping of memories as they are commentary on society. Visit the Triton and look – really dig deep into the layers and ideas and find where Cretara’s work taps into a personal experience.
Dominic Cretara: 20 years of Painting and Drawing is on display until April 14. Visit http://tritonmuseum.org/exhibitions_Cretara.php for more information.