The contributions to “Art Vision | Back Together,” the current group exhibition at Delray Beach’s Arts Warehouse, share a common link: They are made by, or represent, LGBTQ+ individuals. But perhaps the highest, if most counterintuitive, compliment I can pay the show, which was co-curated by the LGBTQ arts nonprofit ArtsUnited, is that I quickly forgot about this connection.
The work, constituting a wide spectrum from abstract to representational, sculpture to painting, realist to surrealist, does not evoke identity politics—none of these creators seem determined to fill niches, or speak for the queer art community. It’s just great art, no qualifier necessary.
If there is any tenuous theme, it’s that the artists, like the rest of us, are confronting the disruptions of the past 17 months, creating work that ripples with emptiness and sorrow, the longing for community and the grasping for hope. Former medical worker Ornella Verano’s untitled, powerful mixed-media work is the most direct example of the latter: Vials of Moderna’s vaccine line a frame evoking a medicine cabinet, while buttons scattered around the center broadcast words associated with the seven stages of grief.
A sense of loss—of people, of jobs, of a way of life—is present in so many of these pieces, whether implicit or explicit. David Plath’s digital print “Sorrow For Lost Souls,” suggesting, for me, a soul ascending its corporeal form, has the haunting, melt-y quality of an Edvard Munch painting. The pain embedded in Diane Delorey’s charcoal drawing “Grieving Pierce” is practically tactile: It’s a close-up of the subject’s eyes, in a wide and arresting letterbox form, shades of tears staining his cheeks.
Toby Gotesman Schneier’s painting “You’re Not Alone” may be the single most moving work in the exhibition, offering an impasto impression of a couple embracing, their tears trickling with drip paint, an angelic harpist playing nearby, the physical and metaphysical sharing the same emotional real estate.
As for the collective panic of the zeitgeist, it is best expressed through the unspecific urgency of Tedd Davis’ “The Countdown,” with its three numbered blocks in vertical succession, and its bomblike fuses strung from dominoes—a 3-D work that is somehow as cartoony as an old “Mission: Impossible” episode and as frightening as, well, the news.
The lack of togetherness that defined so much of the past year is most evident in the warm nostalgia of Saundra Newman’s “Subway Memories,” a painting that lovingly depicts a motley assembly of riders awaiting their bus.
Essentially, “Subway Memories” and “The Countdown” are the Jekyll and Hyde, the yin and yang, of “Art Vision | Back Together,” with its images of a world at peace juxtaposed with those presenting hurt and chaos. Many will prefer to linger longer in the former. Jill Sneidman’s “Tranquility” places viewers on a beach at sunset to the point where you can almost taste the salty air. Mikael Semexant’s painting “Pool Party” has the realism of a photograph, capturing with exquisite detail the mirthful faces, the rippling waves, the patterns on the pool tile.
One day, group exhibitions like these will be unshackled from the news cycle—from the dutiful or therapeutic need to respond to or escape from a world that can seem brutally unfamiliar. We are not there yet—nor should we be.
“Art Vision | Back Together” runs through Aug. 14 at Arts Warehouse, 313 N.E. Third St., Delray Beach. Admission is free; the galleries are closed Sundays. For information, call 561/330-9614.