Hearing the line “Once upon a time…” so many times, and in so many different contexts, you would think it would lose some of its power. But not for me. I love fairy tales. I like how those first few words can take me into another world — a world of magic, of subtle dangers, and perhaps a bit of hidden darkness that sometimes shows itself. But when it comes to fairy tales, I often like the moral of the story as well. Act like a witch and you may end up ugly on the outside as well. Don’t judge people from the way they appear on the outside, because things are not always as they seem.
Jimena Salvatierra and Catalina Schliebener‘s new show Érase (The beginning of the phrase “Once upon a time” in Spanish) explores new ways of understanding fairy tales – taking iconic images presenting them in a way that makes us question our understandings of these classic stories. While Schliebener uses classic images and cuts them up, creating paper collages that disrupt the order of pictures generally understood in conjunction with a story, Salvatierra constructs digitally enhanced photographs that use fairy tale imagery as a reference point.
Opening Friday night at Ups! Art Gallery in Patio del Liceo, Érase drew quite a crowd. Andy Donohoe and I arrived early to take a look at the work and I found the gallery to be somewhat transformed into what felt a bit like a child’s room. Schliebener’s paper collage works cover a wall painted in robin’s egg blue, and Salvatierra’s photograph based on Little Red Riding Hood beckoned me into the space like being led into the forest.
I caught up with Salvatierra for a quick chat about the show and about how she contsructs her images. Looking at her photograph based on the fairy tale The Frog Prince, where a modern young woman with a fuzzy tiara sits beside a frog wearing a crown that sparkles with fire, she explained how she pieces together photographs she has taken to create a picture story. What stood out most to me is how the story still stands in a contemporary setting, and how these iconic images have the ability to suggest morals and maybe even life lessons in different contexts.
In Salvatierra’s image, the woman looks doubtfully at the frog, appearing tired and wary of the possibility of finding love. Even without knowing the story, the suggestion of this woman and her mild disgust for the frog sends a subtle message about judging based on appearances. Of course, in the original Brothers Grimm version of the story, the princess throws the frog against a wall. I don’t know if I could get that from Salvatierra’s photograph, but I could imagine the woman going at the frog with one of her fierce-looking studded clogs!
Jimena Salvatierra and Catalina Schliebener
Through October 22
Ups! Art Gallery
Patio del Liceo
Av Santa Fe 2729, 1st floor, local 43
Tuesday – Saturday, 3 – 8 PM