AFA Gallery is pleased to present Cirque Noir, an exhibition of new work by artists Kelly Denato, Kathie Olivas, and Stickymonger.

In an exploration of the dichotomies present in our everyday lives, Cirque Noir features a series of paintings and sculptures that challenge our perception of good and bad, beautiful and ugly, real and superficial. Artists Kelly Denato, Kathie Olivas, and Stickymonger, each working in diverse media, address these dichotomies through figurative work that is at first blush visually engaging and beautiful, and which, under closer examination reveals its complex symbolism. 

Responding to the anxiety provoked by the manner in which each of us is observed, Stickymonger’s work is representative of the gaze. Utilizing eyes throughout her work and as primary subject matter, Stickymonger embraces that which both fascinates and frightens her. By incorporating these eyes into her work, she strips them of their power, while simultaneously encouraging them to look back at the viewer that views them creating a participatory experience.

Kathie Olivas’ work is a study of the human preoccupation with aesthetic beauty and its ability to provide comfort where typically there is none. By assigning “cuteness” to her sculptures and paintings, Olivas distracts the viewer from their involuntary response of revulsion and compels them to spend more time confronting those things that make them shudder. Olivas deftly fuses the weird with the adorable, the creepy with the alluring, through her use of delicately applied oil paints and of found objects. The finesse of the objects themselves allows them to serve as vehicles for Olivas’ messaging: suspect those things that are most familiar rather than those that are not. 

Kelly Denato’s body of work is perched at the boundary where optimism and happiness meet tragedy and darkness. Human experience has shown that happiness and sadness are inextricable from one another, that one may not exist without its counter. Denato’s work encapsulates the moments in which one extreme may turn into the other. Delicately rendered sylphs float within their own consciousnesses, entangled and entranced by their dreams, oblivious to the menace of the darkness around them. The paintings belie their complexity through Denato’s masterful application of glaze-like paints and candy-colored environments.