There is a belief that all people wear a metaphorical mask, a facade created for the world at large that conceals a person’s true self. Or, as poet W. H. Auden aptly refers to them in his epilogue to The Orators: An English Study, “public faces” and “private faces”. And this duality inherent to the human condition seems to be at the heart of the AFA Gallery‘s Cirque Noir exhibition, wherein artists Kathie Olivas, Stickymonger (Joohee Park), and Kelly Denato each addressed the concept through their unique aesthetics and visual languages.

Stickymonger’s works for Cirque Noir

Before one even enters the gallery’s space, Stickymonger’s massive vinyl decal wall installation tantilizes through a glimpsed view. And as is true of all her feminine portrait subjects, there’s a dispassionate feel emanating from the piece due to its aloof posture and unemotional expression. Yet the truth within Stickymonger’s characters lies within their eyes, the big, vibrant globes housing a sense of life, vitality, and, sometimes, even an entire cosmos of dreams that’s captured within their gaze.

Kathie Olivas’s works for Cirque Noir

Mirroring the unemotional faces from Stickymonger’s works, Kathie Olivas’s cherubic creations have been adorned in sculpted flowers, giant gems, and assembalages of knicknacks. And while this beautifying armor immediately attracts one’s attention, it doesn’t completely conceal the odd physiques prevalent in her so-called Misery Children. With several versions of her skull sculpture Lucky (2009) collaboration with husband Brandt Peters incorporated throughout, as well as velvet wings by Lana Crooks on the Violet Bat Girl piece, none of the works are as telling as those in the Two Faced Girl Series, each one prominently showing both forward- and rear-facing guises.

Kelly Denato’s works for Cirque Noir

Incorporating something similar to Olivas’ color palette, Kelly Denato’s paintings juxtapoz happy and sad aesthetics into each individual piece, her joyfully bright colors being surrounded by ominous dark hues. With a series of resin cast masks displayed alongside these works, each one suggestive of a potential mood or attitude one might portray to the world, these gain further meaning by their proximity to I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours, the painting that inspired the sculpture series. Perhaps best embodying Cirque Noir‘s theme, this piece depicts a woman who is allowing her mask to slide off, revealing the enigmatic face that lies underneath, potentially exposing her secret self.
The Cirque Noir three-person exhibition at AFA Gallery had its opening reception on Saturday, October 7th from 6-8pm. All works in this exhibition will remain on display until October 28th, 2017 at the gallery’s physical location (54 Greene St, New York, NY 10012).

View the gallery’s dedicated page for the exhibition

For more information on Kathie Olivas:
website | twitter | facebook | instagram

For more information on Stickymonger:
website | instagram | facebook

For more information on Kelly Denato:
website | instagram | twitter | pinterest | blog

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