Dread & Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World brings together the work of contemporary artists who use classical fairy tales to address the complexities of our lives today. While some embrace the stories’ promises of transformation and happy endings, others plumb the stories’ more troubling elements—poverty, addiction, and exploitations of power.
No matter their approach, each of the artists dismantles and reassembles the tales in imaginative ways. In a 1980s arcade-like video by Ericka Beckman, the story of Cinderella becomes a means to talk about women’s proscribed social roles; in Timothy Horn’s nearly life-size carriage made of crystallized candy, it becomes an opportunity to address queer identity and notions of the so called rags-to-riches American dream. In Alison Saar’s tar and gold-leaf covered sculpture Blonde Dreams, the story of Rapunzel becomes an avenue for reconsidering racial constructions of beauty; in MK Guth’s 1800-foot-long braid Ties of Protection and Safe Keeping, it becomes the site for a conversation about values and desires.
Many of the fairy tales featured in Dread & Delight will be readily familiar. Others are lesser known and provide an opportunity to explore the rich breadth of the fairy tale tradition. Throughout the exhibition, one finds that the artists have engaged with fairy tales across time—from early Italian, French, and German anthologies; to Walt Disney’s 20th-century animations; to postmodern retellings by authors such Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Collectively they remind us that fairy tales have never been merely children’s tales. Rather, these age-old stories of wonder are powerful tools for making sense of life’s stark—and often dark—realities.
Dread & Delight is accompanied by a scholarly publication charting five decades of fairy tales in the visual arts and featuring a new work of fairy tale fiction by Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link.
Dread & Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World was organized by Weatherspoon Art Museum at The University of North Carolina, Greensboro and curated by Dr. Emily Stamey. Its presentation in Akron is made possible through the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, The Tom and Marilyn Merryweather Fund, the John P. Murphy Foundation and Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLC. Media sponsorship provided by Western Reserve PBS.