On the First Friday in May, “EthereaLand,” a mesmerizing new show curated by Johnny McKee, opened in the Underground. Featuring works by Benaiah Cusack and Matt Kenyon, both artists with studios adjacent to the Underground Gallery, the show invites viewers into a mystical space that not only displays art about an ethereal world, but feels like an ethereal world itself.
Benaiah Cusack is a surrealist landscape artist. His work is deep, dramatic, and quiet, but gives you the feeling like there’s more to be discovered in his imaginative scenes. Characterized by dreamy purple, blue, and pink tones and accented with soft, glowing flora and mysterious orbs open to the interpretation of the viewer. The work of Matt Kenyon, a glass sculptor, complements Benaiah’s work by offering another expression of the mysterious by enchanting orbs. While traditionally meant to be ornaments (as for a Christmas tree), Matt’s brightly colored spheres, each one with a different pattern, seem to be a 3D visualization of Cusak’s work. His vases and glass installation also naturally follow ideas and patterns found in the Benaiah’s 2D paintings.
By hanging Kenyon’s glass orbs in the middle of the gallery, paired with the vase-bearing-pedestals, McKee makes use of the gallery in an unprecedented way. “Installing a show is a lot like making a painting,” McKee said. “You might make a brushstroke you didn’t mean to and you just have to work with it, but it turns into something beautiful.” Matt hung a beautiful installation on a wall that unintentionally mimicked the shapes and colors of the fire in one of Benaiah’s pieces, adding another clause to the cross-dimensional conversation.
McKee intends to make the Underground a destination, to create rhythms for First Friday-goers to visit the gallery by adding surprings and interesting layers to the show. This month, he reached out to the brilliant designer Katy Newton and asked her to host a fashion show during the opening. McKee said she also super easy to work with, as she knew exactly what kind of show he was looking for simply by showing her one of Benaiah’s paintings. Her eclectic and bold designs are not made to be sold off a rack, but to be expressive. The model, wearing bright makeup along with Katy’s mystical designs, brought energy and life to the space that overflowed the Underground and spilled into the rest of the building as they explored our many galleries. The show itself was engaging and surprising, and afterwards viewers were invited to try on some of Katy’s pieces and dance with the models. The fashion show certainly did add a layer to the gallery that night, and between Johnny, Katy, Benaiah, and Matt’s creative work, the Underground certainly was a mystical, ethereal land.