The Pursuit of Selfishness

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Posted October 1, 2009 in Arts & Culture

The reasons for the breakdown of the family unit are always a hotbed of venomous debate. The culprits are often feminists, gays, greed, violence on TV or rock music that has a secret Satan voice whispering in the chorus (personally, I think it all started with those slice ‘n’ bake cookies—how do you bond with a kid over that?). Of course, what some see as a breakdown might really just be a new kind of family—and yet something has definitely gone awry in our domestic bliss. 

 

In “Great Divide,” visionary creators Daniel Zacharczuk, Cory Granados, Ricky Yarnall, Nicole Sloan, Kelly Rice and Phuc Le address that troubling truth, and have their own modern reasoning for the disintegration: ego.

 

The first line of the curatorial statement says it all: “Often, personal goals take over the need to foster relationships within a family.” Both shocking and obvious, no? Clearly, personal goals keep many people from spending more time with their family, and that’s sick, right? But, then, what is the appropriate balance between selfishness and sacrifice? Does “workaholic” just mean you’d rather be single than with your family and that you probably shouldn’t have started one? Is totally shredding your identity in pursuit of some altruistic parental ideal actually a good thing? Wasn’t it the goal of the ’60s and ’70s to unshackle everyone so they were free to be you and me? 

 

Fortunately, that’s just my baggage; the point of this exhibit isn’t to get all psychological on you, but instead to make you feel the results of where that psychology leads. 

 

To put you right in the center of it, the artists have created a house inside the gallery; there are no inhabitants, just empty spaces where people should be and discarded belongings of people who once were. 

 

The living room is first. There is a birdcage with no bird, magazine racks with no media, a muted TV with images of trees, the sky and flowers through a window flipping by, a little doll and some toy cars scattered on the floor, a pair of men’s slippers, a pair of ladies shoes, and a vase of dying flowers. The desk has no papers in it, the jewelry box no jewels, and the silence is so acute, it’s as if it’s another item in the room. There is a feeling as if something terrible has happened, as if some plague or mass catastrophe has whisked the people away. It’s like walking into a Twilight Zone episode or a Ray Bradbury story, and it’s disturbing.

 

The dining room is next. Here, a table and chairs hang from fishing line, as if caught in a frozen moment; a lone broken glass and spilled water lay beneath them. They seem to be falling from the ceiling or perhaps erupting from the floor. Perhaps they really are just floating, unattached to the Earth now that no life is there to bind them to it.

 

The kitchen is tomblike, with just a few dishes in the sink, two of them broken, and a pair of dirty coffee cups. The refrigerator has the standard, random ingredients from which you can make nothing for no one: a can of beer, two oranges a jar of peanut butter and a bottle of ketchup. 

 

Around the corner, the bathroom door is open, but only enough to expose the jars of pills in the medicine cabinet; there are no more pills than the usual number, really. The backyard patio is sterile Astroturf, dimly lit by the cold blue of a bug zapper lamp—more fitting for sorrowful thinking than a barbecue. And it is that sadness that permeates the structure, as though we’ve just wandered through a dreary cemetery or an abandoned museum. And really, it is a museum—filled with all of the things people covet and work for their entire lives; lots of stuff and no people. And this begs the question: Is materialism the plague of the modern family? Personally, I’ve never been very good at tucking a plasma TV into bed.

 

“Great Divide” at SCA Project Gallery, 281 S. Thomas St., Pomona, (909) 865-0252, www.scagallery.com. Thurs-Sat, noon-4PM. Thru Oct. 31. Free.

 


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