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Maybe you’ve seen Bigfoot or UFO-themed artwork in art galleries before. The problem is, Jeremy Efroymson says, much of that art isn’t very good.
“I wanted to do a show where artists who were talented and just happened to live in different areas,” says Efroymson. So he placed an open call for submissions for a show that he set out to curate for iMOCA entitled Museum of Real and Odd. For this exhibit, showing at Tube Factory artspace through April 14, he winnowed down 250 submissions to 13 from all over the United States. As a result, he says, “I think the quality of work in the exhibit is a lot better than what you usually see in a typical Bigfoot or a UFO show.”
Efroymson is vice-president of Efroymson Family Fund, where he has supported many artists and art nonprofits throughout the Midwest, including iMOCA and Big Car. Efroymson’s name might ring a bell because he was was the first executive director of iMOCA and one of the driving forces behind the $25,000 grant that rolls out to five visual artists across the Heartland every year.
At the same time, the Tube Factory artspace will be hosting Chris Murphy’s The Hairy Man exhibition in its main gallery — which Efroymson describes as a show highlighting the history of Bigfoot in the Northwest.
“Chris Murphy has written nine different books about Bigfoot and he put together this exhibit which has like a little bit of everything; it has art, native american art, footcastings, a replica of a nine foot human skeleton,” says Efroymson. “It has all kinds of photos. It has replicas of what a Bigfoot might look like and we’ve put these things together. This is the first time this has ever been seen outside the state of Washington.”
UFOs, probably to a greater extent than Bigfoot and Sasquatch, have occupied a kitschy corner in the American psyche.
And there are certainly pieces of art in the Museum of the Real and Odd that call to mind this kitsch, intentionally or not, such as Cassandra Klos’s “The Arrival.” This photograph depicts a man and a woman in a field, walking towards a white UFO-type-thing with glowing windows. The man and the woman could be Mulder and Scully from the X-Files, for all we know.
But there are works that are much more contemplative, evoking a sense of wonder for the complexity of the natural world. Such is Jennifer Scheuer’s hand colored lithographs “Ginseng/Aging,” which, with its rich detail, is evocative of illustrations in dusty books of natural history that you might find in old libraries.
“I just thought it had a mystical element and the way she shaped these pieces of ginseng to look like human bodies,” says Efroymson. “I wanted to not just have UFOS and Bigfoot. It’s more about the sense of keeping our minds open to all kinds of unusual things.”
An installation entitled “The Museum of Contemporary Art on the Moon” by L.A. based Julio Orta, featuring two wacky videos, just might take the cake for being the most unusual work.
“I don’t know how they do this but somebody’s selling 20-acre plots on the moon,” says Efroymson describing the videos. “So Orta bought property on the moon and he’s having architectural drawings made and he has a website and he’s going through the whole process of what a contemporary art museum would look like on the moon.”
Efroymson, a big fan of Serra’s sculptural work, has a taste for all kinds of art — from the most abstract you can think of to works replete with cultural references.
“I don’t think that anyone has to pigeonhole themselves,” says Efroymson, who started to get interested in UFOs in his 20s. “I like sports. I like art. I’m interested in UFOs and bigfoot. But strangely enough, James Turrell, who’s a well known artist and is one of the sculptors that I really like, he was a U2 pilot. A lot of his light sculptures have to do with seeing the horizon up at 60,000 feet. And then I asked him about UFOs and he said that he believed or at least he was open to it. I guess more than anything, I don’t think anybody needs to pigeonhole themselves as being a UFO person or being an art person or a sports person.”