Provocative art and family time mesh in Winston-Salem’s art hop

by Jordan Green

Delurk Gallery, the partially subterranean refuge of the true artists on the slope of 6 th Street heading westward from Trade, was receiving a steady stream of visitors at about 8:40 p.m., including, in short order, art critic Tom Patterson and David Mounts, the futurist CEO of the budding information technology company Inmar.

Next door, at Sixth & Vine, lively diners thronged the café tables, and from up the hill on Trade Street the sound of a ragged and heartfelt rendition of the Band’s “The Weight” wafted through the cool night air.

The moment felt just right, as if all the proper mix and volume of human activities had combined to reach the critical mass to qualify for what is, for lack of a better word, known as a “scene.”

Every smallish to mid-size city worth its salt has an art hop, usually on the first Friday of the month, as is the case with both of the two largest population centers of the Triad, and the Winston- Salem, which prides itself as the city of arts and innovation, is no exception. One block in each direction from the intersection of 6 th and Trade is typically barricaded from vehicular traffic for the enjoyment of pedestrians.

On the first Friday of May a group of bellydancers shimmied and beckoned young and old onlookers to join the fun. Children ran semi-wild in Piedmont Craftsmen among bamboo-infused ornaments and pottery cups that gleamed with a glaze beyond comprehension. Megan Shuford with Echo Network stood outside the StoryLine bus entreating passersby to come aboard and tell their personal stories. Exuberant drinkers took up residence at the café tables outside Single Brothers. Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County showcased birdhouses and other wares in a tent across from Finnigan’s Wake for its annual Birdfest fundraiser. It was a family affair, y’all.

Delurk was not exception to the child-friendly rule, with parents bringing their school-aged children into the gallery for a double show of artists Olga Noes and Keith P. Rein, urging them to take in the work and not go too fast, and to not leave their sight. They seemed to gravitate all at once to the back alcove, where Noes’ work was exhibited. Her paintings, mostly of women experiencing all manner of surreal torments, were grouped in clusters that drew out their similarities and eccentricities through juxtaposition. One girl covered her eyes and protested to her parents that the paintings were scary.

Among the provocative and disturbing images painted by Noes, an artist from Knoxville, Tenn., is “The Invasion,” featuring a woman with a panicked expression who appears to be trapped in an aquarium with jellyfish. “Suffocate,” depicting a woman whose mouth is partially open with smears of blue and purple around her eyes, speaks for itself. “Electric Feel” portrays a woman with an eel wrapped around her neck.

“They have so much personality,” comments a woman visiting the exhibit.

Keith P. Rein’s work is in another order of magnitude when it comes to provocation. The name piece beside each of the Athens, Ga. artist’s paintings explains, “The P is for penis.” Rein’s images are playful, alluring and somewhat disturbing.

The artist’s “Slaughterhouse Starlets” series depicts various femmes fatale splotched with blood and bearing different types of deadly weapons: a hypodermic needle, a vacuum cleaner spewing toxic fumes, a cleaver and high heels outfitted with spikes. The series seems to make a nod of tribute to Robert Rodriguez’s grindhouse tribute Planet Terror. Others paintings feature women with guns, raising the question of whether our culture promotes violence as a form of sexual excitement and a “food porn” series whose substitutions suggests that what makes something sexual lies more in the power of imagination than in particular body parts.

The parents seemed to have had a heads-up: No wonder they herded the kids towards Olga Noes’ section.