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Volume 24, Number 4 — April 2017

Ralph Slatton examines the duality of Libra


"Cosmic Kabuki" by Ralph Slatton is the signature artwork for the "Mapping the Cosmos" exhibit at William King Museum of Art, Abingdon, Virginia.

January 28, 2015

Ralph Slatton was Jan Hurt's choice to join in the Cosmos fun. Like the other artists, Slatton drew his artistic assignment from the hat, and Fate handed him Libra as his inspiration.

"I think Libra was a fun topic with lots of possibilities," he says. "Whenever I participate in theme shows, I try to incorporate images with which I'm familiar and those that I generally use in my regular work. Libra happened to be a good fit because it was an easy transition from my usual concept of identities and disguises.

"In astrology, Libra is considered as balance and harmony between different viewpoints and personalities. The individuals under this sign are thought to be good diplomats, able to see issues from another's point of view and also have the ability to present these views in a pleasant manner. Libras often hide or bend their true feelings to bring peace. I like to think of this as a disguise that appeases and also protects.The downside is that they carry self-esteem issues and go through life not really knowing who they are."

To convey the dual nature of the Libra, Slatton created "Cosmic Kabuki," a work using watercolor, pen and pastel. "In 'Cosmic Kabuki,' I chose animals to tell this story because they are excellent allegories for human behavior. I have a wolf in sheep's clothing, facing a sheep in wolf's clothing.They are wearing hides of the opposing animal. This scene contains a dark side; not only are the hides worn in a somewhat gruesome manner, but we must confront the idea that the disguise is made from a disemboweled animal. I used a symmetrical composition to reinforce the feeling of balance. The disguised animals are quite opposite in nature, a timid sheep and an aggressive wolf. Ironically their disguises allow them to meet and share an affectionate kiss. This is in keeping with the shifting personality issues, which Libras are thought to possess."

"Cosmic Kabuki" was chosen as the signature artwork for the exhibit, and as such, appears on all the publicity materials.
Slatton created another work depicting Libra, this time using acrylics. "In "Retrograde Mercury,' a hare takes on the personality of the wolf, with its angry, almost pained expression. The relationship of the wolf is not completely known. It can be both the protector and stalker, either giving refuge to the hare or having it for lunch. The title of the piece plays upon the retrograde of Mercury, in which Mercury gives the illusion of moving backwards in its orbit. This occurred at the time the piece was created,on October 10-25, 2014. This is thought to be an excellent period for getting in touch with our "dark side.' It is an especially slow time to reach a decision, rethinking old positions and relationships, and there can be a tendency for our observations to be especially idealized and dangerously precarious," he says

Slatton is a professor at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.He holds a MFA from the University of Iowa and a master's degree from Arkansas State University. He has exhibited artwork innational and international venues, including Taipei Fine Art Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; Ronnebaeksholm Arts and Culture Centre, Naestved, Denmark; Taiwan Museum of Art, Taichung, Taiwan, and "2nd Sapporo International Print Biennale," Sapporo, Japan. His favorite medium is printmaking, which includes the intaglio processes of line etch and aquatint. He says he is a
"traditionalist, at heart, and is influenced by the styles of Goya and Dürer."

THERE'S MORE:
>> Greg Howser explores individuality


Topics: Art, Exhibits