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plus + gallery :: progressive contemporary art for Denver
: Donald Fodness - Spilled Milk

“Donald Fodness - Spilled Milk”, 2012, ink, graphite, colored pencil and spray paint on paper, 18 x 24 inches

About the Exhibition


They sit in a poorly ventilated upstairs room, inhaling fumes of paint and pen while smearing their canvasses with the story of the world. They do not foretell doom or bring about the destruction of any—those were lies spun by their mothers—but merely record what is happening, seeing the unseen causes and effects, drawing conclusions that never occur to the guests celebrating downstairs. Conquest stares bemusedly at his pastels and wishes he could be drinking wine with the patrons below, but it is not allowed, as his brother War reminds him every time he makes for the door. The twins Famine and Death paint in silence, biding their time till later tonight when the door will be opened. And then the festivities would truly begin.

The hour passes too slowly, and now Famine looks towards the door with a lick of his lips. His belly shamefully protrudes over his belt. He is walking paradox—always fat yet famished, for it is the greed of others that feeds his hunger and denies any satiation. Death looks at his brother with pity, for he knows neither hunger nor desire. He was the hardest to convince to leave their mothers—the Three Fates—when the time came. Death was a momma’s boy after all, tall and awkward, never knowing what to do with his hands. But it sickened him to sit at his mother’s feet and catch the lives she cut. It wasn’t until after they snuck away in the dead of night, asking anyone for sanctuary and finding none, that the gallery owner opened his doors and said, come and see.

They huddled in that upper room for more than a month, almost driven mad with the visions of merciless chaos that their mothers had left them. One morning they found a stack of canvasses, paints, and pens by the door – the door that would remain locked during their stay. Show us, the note on top of the pile had said. Death nodded and picked up a canvas, thankful to finally have something to do with his hands. Hot tears stung his eyes as he began to paint, and the interwoven lives and deaths began to take shape in images and story. Finally, he could see meaning and how he was related to birth and creativity in all of its forms. War and Conquest were slower to join in-they missed going about to the ends of the earth, wreaking havoc, but all of that had been at their mother's bidding. Once they began to draw, ah, they discovered just how blinded and used they had been, thinking all this time they were part of some majestic destiny when really their actions had been dictated by petty human greed and nationalistic pride. But soon all accounts would be settled, for at last the hour is come, the knob turns, and the door opens.

A smile breaks out on Death’s face as Abjection quietly glides in on her tendrils, followed by their sister Carnival. They’re tall, like their brothers, but Abjection is the oldest, and makes the siblings behave. Carnival is the most mischievous of them all and playfully pounces on Conquest—she’s a big girl, all fleshy bulges and throaty laughter. Her brother calls for War to help him since she’s already got him pinned to the ground, but Abjection throws out more warning tendrils to make them stop the horseplay. The colors of her robe change from grey to green to black as she glides towards the open door, followed eagerly by Death and the others. She is the connection between them and the world, between the self and other, and even the Fates cannot bind or harm her in any way. It was by her guile alone that the brothers escaped to this place, this sacred space where they could become something more than those dreaded mythological horsemen. They had painted the grotesque visions with which their mothers had tortured them, tinged with the echo of Carnival’s laughter and sticky slime that stained the places where Abjection had been. The brothers couldn’t wait to show the patrons below those beautiful nightmares. After all, the apocalypse was coming. Oh yes, as surely as the sun rose every morning over the horizon, it would happen. But exactly how—that was the question to which they had few answers, only a vague uneasy feeling that perhaps it was coming sooner than they had thought.

- Nancy Hightower, 2011/2012

Nancy Hightower currently teaches Writing in the Visual Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She wrote the catalogue essay for Carrie Ann Baade's Cute and Creepy exhibit at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts and the introductory essay to Plus Gallery's most recent publication "Xi Zhang - Dream Dusts." She lectures nationally and internationally on the rhetoric of the fantastic, grotesque, and uncanny in art and literature. She believes in the dynamic interplay of art and language, and writes fiction for artists, museums, and galleries.