At the American Acadamy of Arts & Letters Exhibitin on March 4th 2014, there was a curious chirping sound that was wandering through the rooms. People were crinkling their noses and cocking their heads to the side like confused puppies do at the strange sound that was echoing off the walls. Had an unusually loud cricket invaded the air vents and was now in its death throes? Or was it a bird that was trapped somewhere? Surely not. It must be someone’s orthopedic shoes squeaky on the hardwood floor.
As people broke off mid conversation to focus on the chirping sound, I noticed none of them were bothered by this cricket. No. People were smiling at the mystery of something so out of place as a cricket’s call at an art exhibition.
But what most people didn’t know is that the sound wasn’t a trapped cricket. It was Ultra Violet, who was carrying around a painted wooden cricket as a purse. Inside this purse was a cricket noise maker. The lady dressed in various shades of violet and fuchsia with a bow tied up in her hair and a cricket accompanist, was the artist that incited the most delight at the exhibition.
Ultra Violet’s “Self-Portrait” was prominently displayed next to her vibrant and witty “Selfie”. The people who walked through the room acted as if they were under some sort of charm, for as soon as they broke the doorway’s seal smiles that rippled up to their eyes took over their faces. And the smiles with teeth and dimples remained on their faces as they walked around the room.
Much is made about the effect of art. Art moves us. Art is transforming. Art can elevate us. Art is supposed to make money. Art is a good investment. These are all statements I have heard in the past six months. Rarely does one hear about art’s intent to create amusement by way of inducing smiles and laughter. This is what Ultra Violet does. She ignites a real feeling of delight with her artwork.
April 24th marked the opening of “Ultra Violet: The Studio Recreated” at the Dillon Gallery in Cheslea, New York City. Ultra Violet and her chirping cricket were unable to attend the opening, but her light hearted spirit was splashed on the walls of her gallery.
“In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes and everyone needs a ‘Self-Portrait’” she said to me back in October 2013. There is a strange power about her “Self-Portrait” series that is only more evident when you are staring at a wall of fifteen exuberantly painted and elaborately framed “Self-Portraits”. I, like most people, when walking next to a reflective building will look at myself, usually only to be stunned that my unadorable muffin top has grown or my hair suddenly looks like birds are trying to take up residence in my ponytail. Because trips to the bathroom or the mirrored edifices of buildings aren’t enough, we take pictures of ourselves everyday just to remind ourselves what we look like. We use pictures to adjust our own understanding of ourselves.
When I look at pictures of myself or at my reflection, I am either discouraged, surprised, or too tired to care. But, when I look at myself in a “Self-Portrait” I don’t see my wonky tooth, my well-fed cheeks, or my smudged mascara. I see myself and it’s a contented image. Maybe it’s because I am washed over in different colors. It’s not Karen staring back at me. It’s a golden Karen or a blue hued Karen looking back at me. Is that the reason? Every mirror is painted an unique color so the portrait is the image of the person but it isn’t reflecting reality. It is reflecting something much more charming. It’s in that “something” where the magic, wit, and power of Ultra Violet lives and flourishes.
I strongly suggest that if you live anywhere near the island of Manhattan, you visit the Dillon Gallery and see Ultra Violet’s art work.
When I asked Ultra, at the Academy’s exhibition, about her cricket she said, “Life is difficult. We must amuse one another.” In honor of Ultra Violet’s mission to lighten people’s burdens, I have collected some videos that act as antidotes to my own frustrations.