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Amidst a Lively Festival, a Musing on Mortality

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loaves and fishes
“Loaves and Fishes” by Annie Farrar

By Theresa Diffendal

In a hallway with a giant papier-mâché snake slinking across the wall, you wouldn’t expect to find a tri-part artistic reflection on life, death and their intersections. The aptly named exhibit “Where two worlds touch” invited visitors to “dream together” through the work of artists Mary Baum, Jim Doran and Annie Farrar.

Entered through a narrow doorway, four jet black structures immediately commanded attention. Tattered rags strung between the wood gave the impression of ships’ masts. They leaned tall against the wall.

Take a step closer, and the solid structure dissolves into everyday items strung together with twine and painted black. Farar tied brooms, necklaces, wire and other found objects together, creating a single pole.

One visitor remarked, with a bit of awe, that the pieces looked “like an effigy.”

Several other of Farrar’s pieces lined the room, also featuring found items like a recorder, plastic cupcake and switch plate again bound with twine. One memorable piece had a skull atop an hourglass ringed by plastic fish, clothespins and an old wired phone. Farrar hoped her art would serve as a “meditation on entropy, time, loss, decay, renewal, and survival,” according to her artist’s statement.

dorin art

A 20-foot-long comic by Doran entitled “What Happens When you Die” (above) covered the length of a wall opposite the room’s windows. Sara Nelson, an articulate and professional 7th grader and volunteer with the Greenbelt Arts Program, walked guests through the comic panels which she said constituted a “cycle of death.”

The first panels depicted a skeleton dressed in a suit arising from a coffin marked with the artist’s initials. The skeleton searched through his pockets and discovered a card for “17% off bone whitening” in his pocket.

Separating the remaining panels and dominating the middle of the room was a large image of the skeleton reuniting with his skeleton dog. Each character was its own cut out piece of paper, but the dog’s tail still seemed to wag.

The final panels showed the skeleton discovering a boat and riding out to sea. Not long after, a giant tentacled limb emerged from the water and attacked the skeleton’s boat, scattering his bones in all directions.

In the last two panels we again see the original coffin, from which the skeleton again rose in a continuous cycle that exhibited Doran’s “deep interest in mortality.”

Doran’s other work was similarly skeletal and precise. Shadow boxes along the wall held scenes of skeleton scientists researching resurrection and a skull-shaped map depicting the “mouth of Hades” and “Pine Island, weirdest place on Earth.”

In a small Altoid with a bright pink background sat a cut-out Frida Kahlo astride an emerald-colored praying mantis. The words “Frida rode her matis side saddle” were emblazoned underneath.

A can of tuna with neat, precise fish skeletons peeking out further displayed Doran’s deft skills with scissors. A few visitors likened his artistic style to the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or Tim Burton’s “The Corpse Bride.”

mary baum mirror
Work by Mary Baum

Baum preferred to work with glass and rock, labeling rocks “the ultimate coming into being, beyond our human time scale” in her artist’s statement.

As in Farrar’s work, upon closer inspection of Baum’s glass spheres the few became many. Perched on wooden sticks, the spheres were made of multiple transparent glass shards held together with a clear adhesive.

A unique creation saw the glass shards replaced with mirrors. However, it was impossible to look straight into the mirrors. Instead, looking at Baum’s work forced the viewer to see from different angles.

Ron Lonicki, a member of Greenbelt’s Arts Advisory Board, was pleased with the traffic to the exhibit and level of interest from guests. He said of Greenbelt’s art programs, “we are strong and getting stronger all the time.”

Theresa Diffendal is a 2018 graduate of Bryn Mawr College and a 2019 candidate for a B.A. at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Follow Susan Harris:
“Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com and direct the nonprofit Good Gardening Videos.org.”

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