I know that art is supposed to transcend earthly realities and all, but when Bridgeport’s January Third Friday gallery walk also landed on the coldest winter spell so far this year, reality inevitably intruded. Gallery openings were hard to spot, with nearly no one on the streets passing from one to another. The only audible noises were a few spinning tires trying to get over snow banks to park and a few freezing patrons cursing the cold as they hurried to find a heated refuge.
My first refuge was a studio glaring bright in the middle of a row of closed businesses. Inside was Ray Emerick in his workspace, standing among his paintings up for show. The silence of the frigid night extended into the studio, where snowy boots squeaked and the artist calmly explained a few pieces and their intersection with his personal life, all the while amazed at the boldness of anyone venturing out in such cold.
After setting such a tranquil tone to the quiet winter night, stepping into the Co-Prosperity Sphere’s “Young Polish Artists” group show revealed a buzz of activity hidden from the street. Clusters of people weighed down by their winter gear tried to maintain an air of artistic festivity, bouncing around each art piece to the beats of a DJ. The meaningful explanation of the art in relation to the artist, as was so present in the previous gallery, was confined to some typed up comments on sheets of computer paper tacked to the wall. More important, it seemed, was an aesthetic interaction with the art in the context of collective festivity.
An installation comprised of a series of grocery bags taped to the wall did not, however, seem to capture the full attention of most attendees. Instead, the full-sized wooden outhouse seemed to be a favorite, if only for the fact that chipper patrons could go inside of it, peek out at their friends, and joke about using it as an actual toilet. While some of the featured young Polish artists did put up what seemed to be more traditionally serious art pieces, this was definitely the more festive, perhaps even trashy, side of Third Fridays. While the cold ultimately put a damper on the spirit of the event in general, those who did venture out swarmed together and demanded a celebration.