Life is Fantastic and Death is Too

Opening Reception
Friday, November 6
Free for Members/$5 for NonMembers

Life is Fantastic and Death is Too is a two person exhibition of local artists June Altamura and Amber Keithley, who’s artwork centers around the grotesque wonder of the unknown. The universe, awe, and the shared and impenetrable experience of death are concepts tenaciously explored. Each artist mines potential and possibility within the obfuscated secrets of life and death.

Collage is Altamura’s primary medium. Dissecting and rearranging clippings from books and magazines that fuse and confuse space, terrestrial nature, and the human body, she uses the visual language of macro and micro to upend the familiar. Her positioning of the human body against the massive unexplored universe recalls 19th-century American landscape painting and Burke’s references to the Sublime – the thrill and danger of confronting untamed Nature and its overwhelming forces. For Altamura, this process is a reaffirmation of the wonder, delight, and also terror, of living in a supermassive unknown.

Keithley’s taxidermy work references historical, literary, sacred, and profane subjects from Rasputin to the Virgin Mary. Her current series of saint figures and ornamented skulls entitled Idolatry (incorporating the prepared bodies of mice, rats, and other common animals) is both sacrilegious and reverent in its iconographic integrity. Even the act of taxidermy itself references the belief in the Incorruptible bodies of Catholic saints, which were more often than not simply embalmed. The latin term Memento Mori, which means “Remember Death” continues to inform her work. Keithley states, “Near-death experiences tend to bring the shine out in our lives, and the artistic expressions in the Memento Mori tradition are intended to do just the same. They bring out the luster in life by reminding us to live life with intention. Some people get that shine when they look into the faces of children or gazing through telescopes at asterisms millions of light years away. It’s different for everyone, and as a biophile I get some of mine from the exotic textures and organizations of nature. The creatures and characters I build are Memento Mori for our time.”

Images from Amber Keithley

 Images from June Altamura