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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Clown exhibition juggles exaggerated emotion with intimate dialog

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For many people, the idea of entering a room full of clowns is… less than favorable; for some, the very thought is terrifying. Whatever degree of emotion you may or may not feel toward clowns, Deborah Barr-Brayman’s deliciously creepy exhibition,“Ten Feet Under and Upside Down,” is worth a look-see.
Upon entering the California State University, Stanislaus Art Gallery, located in the Theatre Department, gallery patrons will encounter a room full of paintings inspired by clowns from the 1890s-1940s – each varying in highly-dramatized emotion.
Out of context, I found the whole exhibition rather odd and abstruse, an apt description for an assortment of paintings featuring clowns. It is difficult to find order wading through the oddness, rendering Barr-Brayman’s collection statement absolutely necessary. Knowing that the clowns represent an emotional journey for the artist offers some much needed help in interpreting the paintings.
“Within each clown’s expression lies a personal history, an expression of the human condition; now and then. […] My intention in my creative process is to catch attention by creating a visual dialog that the viewer can intimately identify with,” Barr-Brayman said.
Her paintings, in particular those that break the fourth wall and stare back at you, induce an inward reflection. For example, take her piece, “Wait a Minute I Have Something to Say,” which features a mostly black-and-white clown wearing a pensive expression. As it gazed back at me, I felt like it was almost daring me to bare my soul in the same way. The added contrast of the dark background against the light foreground in the painting made for a feeling of seriousness to an otherwise impish subject.
But the paradoxes were not the only things that stood out about these paintings. In this collection, the artist experimented with different painting methods; one of them was allowing the paint to run, especially around the clowns’ eyes. In doing so, Barr-Brayman created the impression that the subjects are withered by time, like an old, forgotten circus poster that was left out in the rain.
Moreover, the paintings have a reflective, glossy surface, which allow viewers to literally (and figuratively) see themselves in them – adding yet another layer to the visual dialog Barr-Brayman mentions.
Each painting has an incredible amount of detail, with generally great contrast. At the same time, not all the paintings in this exhibition are emotional dynamos. Without a doubt, the work Barr-Brayman put into each painting is exquisite. In a few of the paintings, however, the hyperbolized drama leads you to question the truthfulness of the emotions portrayed.
If you happen to find yourself near the Theatre Department, the gallery is certainly worth checking out – even if only to get out of the heat. You can currently view “Ten Feet Under and Upside Down” until Oct. 4, for free.

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Clown exhibition juggles exaggerated emotion with intimate dialog