In a world where media hit us from every direction, we become seized with a desire to escape the arts—the booming car with too much bass, enormous billboards advertising the latest contrived Hollywood movie. It all becomes too much, and we end up running away for fear of bombardment. But we need art; we need its stimulus. And the effects of what we choose to participate in can be staggering.
When we drive around town caught up in the mundane details of our day, lost in thought about stuff that ultimately doesn’t amount to beans, and then we walk into an art gallery with a good show, it can be like a baseball bat slamming us upside the head. We don’t even have to be a normal gallery-goer or art lover to experience this; all we really need to do is pay attention. If artists are successful, they knock us out of our world and straight into theirs.
One example of a show that can have this effect is at the Art Foundry Gallery at 1021 R Street this month. Troy Dalton is an established local painter who is every bit an artist. He lives it and breathes it, but with a genuine nature. He holes up in his large, turn-of-the-century opera house in a small town west of here, painting ’til all hours of the night. Why? The aforementioned compulsion, but inverted: The same blasted stimulation we get from letting go of our world and exploring someone else’s can be experienced by that other world’s creator. The artist learns to do something he’s never done before, or discovers something about his personality that he didn’t know; it can keep him awake at night.
Dalton’s world, via his paintings, is intoxicating. Tangibly painted figures, clever metaphors and an occasional nod to art history help create a place we can visit simply by looking at a flat surface. Just knowing that, while looking at paint deftly moved around canvas, is the thing that knocks the legs out from under us. And we all need that every once in a while.