In June of 2017, painter Jennifer Gillooly Cahoon opened up the Heartspot Art Center and Gallery in an East Providence shopping district. Housing a substantial exhibition space and a small gift shop, and offering art classes to both adults and children, the Heartspot quickly became a favorite gallery among Rhode Islanders and visitors from right on the border Massachusetts.
Among other accolades, it was voted “Best Gallery” in ProJo (Providence Journal) Reader’s Choice award every year from 2018-2021, and noted as “Best Gallery in the East Bay,” in Best of Rhode Island, in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
In March of 2020, the pandemic necessitated the closing of the gallery. But in late September of this year, Cahoon happily reopened the gallery with “Art of Darkness,” her annual Halloween-themed group exhibition.
As one might expect, the show featured the usual array of the unusual. There were paintings, drawings, sculptures and mixed media works of bloodsucking vampires, horned devils, severed limbs, extraterrestrial beings, and the witches, werewolves and wraiths of myth, legend and film.
But something truly frightening happened on the fourth of October when the Heartspot was flooded. The water rose to intimidating levels, but none of the showcased art was damaged. Cahoon was devastated but she persevered. She did not give up.
With the help of the East Providence Fire Department, the EP Department of Public Works, her landlord, and a small army of family, friends and supporters, the Heartspot reopened, after much shop-vaccing, fans blowing, mold remediation, drywall replacement and painting. The show was reinstalled.
Halloween will have come and gone before this review sees print but the “Art of Darkness” will be up until November 11th. Extend that monster mash mood a bit longer and take a gander at a perfectly entertaining seasonal exhibition.
Christopher Sanders displays a trio of somewhat large scale acrylic paintings that celebrate the old school classic Universal Studios monster movie stars. “Abhorred Monster” and “Imhotep” honor the legendary Boris Karloff respectively as the lightning reanimated, stitched-together monster of Frankenstein and the vengeful cursed Egyptian mummy. The third work is “Creature of the Night” featuring Bela Lugosi in his most famous role- Count Dracula.
Another movie vampire (albeit based on Dracula) is represented in the exhibition. Count Orlok, the bloodsucker of the 1922 German Expressionist film “Nosferatu” is reimagined with Roger Lemelin’s mixed media puppet of the same name. Vampires cast no reflection nor shadow, but the reflection and shadow of Tim Burton must be acknowledged here.
Sara Breslin’s watercolor and gouache painting “All Eyes on Me” is a commentary on celebrity obsession as Princess Diana, in tiara and pearls, weeps and two new eyes have somehow formed on her cheek. She might imagine herself as nothing more than a freak, brought out to prance in front of a world that couldn’t get enough of her. The gaze never ended until her life did.
There is a significant amount of three-dimensional work in the show and much of it tinged with humor, as is Carver Rapp’s ceramic “Scorpion Bowl.” It has nothing to do with the famed, often-shared Polynesian rum and fruit juice cocktail. It is a vessel of ceramic scorpions. It could only have been made freakier if it had contained actual living scorpions.
“I Can’t Think Anymore” by Brian Huntress is a disturbingly stark portrait of a pink-eyed man in a bright green devil costume against a fiery orange background. Something about it, perhaps the combination of colors and the intensity of his stare, makes it the most chilling work in the gallery.
Conjoined twins lead a difficult life. What could possibly make that worse? How about the curse of lycanthropy? A charming little mixed media sculpture titled “Alone Time” by Alexandra Scibetta Quigley features two sisters sharing the same body. One knits, one crochets…as conjoined werewolf sisters do.
“Art of Darkness” is on view at the Heartspace Art Center and Gallery, 1970 Pawtucket Avenue, East Providence until Nov. 11.