Flora- The World of Bobby Gilbreath

IMG_9651 copy I met Bobby Gilbreath on a Friday around three o'clock in the afternoon. The day was bright and clear as we sat down at a table in the corner of the Thirsty Scholar after ordering a round of beers (I had a stout, and Bobby went for something a little more "in season").

As Bobby and I began to converse it didn't take me long to realize I was in the midst of one who thirsts to know the world, and consequently himself, on a level that makes most of us uncomfortable. You know what I'm talking about, I think. The closest thing I can liken it to is the feeling you get when you look into someone's eyes for too long. You ponder their depths only to break your gaze and look away at the risk of you know not what. The intensity is just too much to bear.

I entered my time with Bobby by simply asking: "Why create this show Flora?" His replied, "I wanted to create an experience with art for others based on my own eclectic philosophical beliefs." He went on, "Personally, Flora is an analogy of what I was going through; it is an escapism mixed with imagination leading into a narrative."


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In this escape-driven narrative, the viewer discovers the logs of an estranged astronaut who has been cut off from everything he formerly knew. With his old reality having been shattered, he begins to see himself more and more as part of the universe, and, alternatively, he sees the universe in himself. He discovers a new world as he begins to ponder his own existence. And as he peers inside himself in the midst of a new world, he shares his thoughts in the ship's log. Creation and destruction, life and death, lines begin to blur and distinctions lose authority. The parallels between his internal existence and the existence of the universe are uncanny. What. A. Story. What. A. Show.

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As I browsed through the world Mr. Gilbreath had meticulously fashioned, I saw these in depth organic processes. I reveled in the tension I saw in the fact that the organic processes were created by numerous chemicals on canvases, swirling incongruously, yet beautifully. This is a show that has to be existentially experienced.

Before I left the Thirsty Scholar, Bobby gave me a bit of homework. He told me I needed to check out author Herman Hesse. I think Hesse ties this up Bobby's ideas neatly when he says, "Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours."

Bobby Gilbreath's show Flora is featured in the Harrison Gallery through July 25th.