Looking around the gallery, I was in awe by the variety of mixed media present in Butch Anthony’s work in his exhibition Inside/Out at the Halsey Institute. Among portraits from the American antebellum era and an assemblage of animal bones and taxidermy birds, I quickly found myself caught up by how much there was to take in. One piece in particular, however, truly caught my eye. Harrod’s Dream, 2019, located towards the back of the Halsey not only combines many visual components of what Anthony’s work embodies but also features an audio monologue element.
After a voicemail from his friend Harrod Blank late one-night, Butch Anthony was inspired to create a piece that illustrated the contents of a vivid and out of this world dream. The piece, about 4 by 8 feet, lays on two separate panels with a variety of visuals to catch the eye. On the left panel, an array of bones is laid out next to a small clear figure with a baby doll hand bursting through its chest. An assortment of numbers and small loops with one of his signature acrylic painted bone bodies sits below it. In the far-right upper corner, a small pile of deconstructed old watches is splayed out. Along the bottom of both parts of the piece, wood cut-outs in eye shapes are painted and adorned with metal studs. On the right portion of the piece, my eye was quickly drawn to a figure resembling a skeletal woman with a fire held up in her hand and a halo around the head. A metal like skirt falls down on the skeleton’s sides. Anthony added several pieces of watches on the corners of each panel, and an old portrait of a woman is cut out and stapled to the top. Looking at this piece it isn’t very clear what is going on at first glance but after spending a little time in front of it you may begin to see some innuendos that reference an otherworldly dream.Listening to the audio after visually absorbing the piece allows the viewer to better understand the work as Anthony’s friend Harrod describes a slightly erotic yet mechanical dream of his. The dream takes place in a mismatched house that he explains as a “tinkerer’s paradise.” Harrod also details a scene about feeding a mechanical woman with a “happy life” that seems to exist under the hoop skirt of this woman. The dream in many ways really resembles themes present in Butch Anthony’s work. The obscure nature of its contents delves into the sexual and raw, the emotional yet scientific and the old versus new abstractions seen in his work. These elements seem to all pull together in this painting which truly makes it more than the sum of its parts.
by Sarah Williams, Halsey Institute intern