Big little world
Tara Cuthbert, Miniature Worlds: Memories and Myths
A giant scrapbook of the daily lives of Joe Rotto Bushwick and Violet Gray unfolds on the walls of the OXS Gallery in Carson City. Bushwick and Gray are the mythical proprietors of the mythical Traveling Variety Show, which is based on the also mythical Bushwick Farms.
Fifty-nine silver gelatin prints hang on two walls. One 32-print series is the size of a coaster, but it’s square. The 27-print series on the opposing wall is a few inches smaller. The scenes in the black-and-white photos are exaggerated with an artistic addition of color. Small black-and-white ribbons of different patterns were hand sewn into the edges of each frame, turning the entire exhibit into a surreal, aggrandized memory book.
The photos are quite varied, though the characters remain the same. Artist Tara Cuthbert and her husband, Stuart Solzberg, pose in the pictures as Violet Gray and Joe Rotto Bushwick.
“Joe and Violet are enacted by myself and my husband so that we can document images from the Traveling Variety Show,” says Cuthbert. “Bushwick Farms exists in the space between illusion and truth.”
The couple has been developing the photographic history of Bushwick Farms for the past five years, with special focus on the variety show. “Joe and Violet came to Las Vegas to be married,” says Cuthbert. “We fell in love with Vegas and decided to stay for a while, and we lived there for four years.”
Originally from Sydney, Australia, the 34-year-old Cuthbert works full time as a studio assistant for a toymaker. On weekends and weeknights she works on her art from her apartment/studio in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband and two cats, Chief and Lou Lou, the Incredible Dancing Cat. Their felines also starred in the Traveling Variety Show.
“The images in this show stem from several larger bodies of work we have been developing for the past five years, based around a conceptual company known as Bushwick Farms,” explains Cuthbert.
Apart from the creation of the farm and the lives of the players in the variety show, Cuthbert spent a lot of time preparing the pieces for the exhibit.
“I printed and hand sewed all of the work for this show at two artist residencies—the MacDowell Colony (NH) and the Bemis Center (NE),” says Cuthbert. “I work on the photographic and sewing component of our project, [while] my husband Stuart handles the performance/video/installation components.”
The poses in Miniature Worlds range from enactments of the Traveling Variety Show to wilderness shots, in which the characters hold signs voicing their philosophical musings. The effect is both eclectic and nostalgic, which is impressive for an invented society.
One series of prints carries a particularly stark theme. The two characters are in a snowy field, both wearing heavy clothes and what look like modified gas masks over their faces. Each holds a hand-made sign in front of them. One sign, held by Joe, begins: “The call of the wild beckons.” Violet’s sign continues the thought: “and we are helpless in our ability to ignore.”