If you’re looking for inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. Join PoetsArtists and 33 Contemporary in celebration of ‘Razor’s Edge’, an online exclusive exhibition curated by Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt. Immerse yourself in the contemporary composition of each artist and let these beguiling narratives take you on a journey into their unique creative visions.
Read below as a selection of the PoetsArtists – 33 Contemporary participating artists share with us the inspiration for their exhibiting work. View the entire exhibition via artsy and don’t miss the opportunity to add to your collection by visiting the spring sale!
PoetsArtists ‘Razor’s Edge’ | 33 Contemporary
Online Exclusive: April 1 – June 1, 2020
33 Contemporary | 1029 W 35th Street | Chicago, IL 60609 | 33contemporary.com
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PoetsArtists- 33 Contemporary Press // The phrase “the razor’s edge” first appears in the Katha Upanishad, an important Hindu scripture written in Sanskrit. With origins predating Jesus Christ, the Upanishad is a story in which a little boy, Nachiketa, the son of a sage who has given away all of his earthly possessions, asks his father to whom he, the little boy, will be given away now that the father has renounced all earthly things. The father then gifts the boy to the Hindu deity of death, Yama. Nachiketa and Yama then engage in a deep conversation on the nature of humanity, the soul, and how one might be liberated from earthly struggle. During this conversation, Yama says to Nachiketa (1-III-14): “Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones, for that path is sharp as a razor’s edge, impassable, and hard to go by, say the wise.”
This verse and the phrase “the razor’s edge” has been variously translated over the centuries and used in dozens of different contexts, although it has generally always been used to refer to the search for God, self, salvation, or the meaning of life. In the 20th Century, the phrase became the title of a 1944 novel by W. Somerset Maugham in which a World War One veteran goes on a search for himself and the deeper meaning of life. Maugham’s book begins with an epigraph that is a paraphrase of the verse from the Upanishad: “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.”
“It is so easy for us to be able to shut out the things that are going on around us in the world and just live our lives within our little bubbles. With the issues going on at the border in the US with families being separated, all the political turmoil, the fires in Australia, and many other things going on around us that we can shut out, especially now that we are all forced to stay within our homes because of the current pandemic. I wanted to express how we need to cut off our blinders and try to open our eyes to what’s around us and be more proactive to helping more. We are all connected… no matter where we live in the world.” – Shana Levenson
“My painting “Threshold” pays homage to Joseph Campbell’sand Carl Jung’s investigations and philosophy on “the self.” The great philosopher, Plato, once referred to the soul as a circle. Campbell and Jung build upon Plato’s musings by speculating that within the circle exists a threshold, which separates a person’s “ego,” or waking consciousness, from their “shadow,” or collective unconscious. What we think of as our “self” is made up of easily defined categories and the roles we play within our society. Yet, so much of the soul is dictated by a deep ocean of mystery within each of us that includes unexplainable primal knowledge or instinctual direction…the shadow unconsciousness. A fully self-actualized person learns that the ego and shadow must work in accordance with each other. Despite our limiting ego we must remain open to our inner mystery and bring both components into relationship with one another to thrive.
This painting depicts a subject existing within Plato’s notion of the soul (a circle). Within that circle we find the model split within two sections. The top section, rendered in natural skin tones, is the “ego” or the known consciousness. Under that section, there is a strange blue skin tone that serves to represent the “shadow self” or the collective unconsciousness. The bliss depicted on the subject’s face is evidence of someone who has learned to accept the existence of each and communicate between both parts.” – Grant Gilsdorf
“Like many, if I face the deepest questions directly, they disappear. So I try to view them from the corner of my eye and weave the glimpses that I catch into my work. Painting is the best way I have found explore those questions. When I begin, the full meaning is often amorphous, only solidifying during the process of creation.
I began this piece before considering it for ‘Razor’s Edge’, yet now it feels perfect for the theme. It represents the extreme dissonances involved in traveling the space between beginning and death, and the precariousness of the crossing. It is about the finding, the walking, and often the stumbling. This work hints at the contradiction between the aesthetic and the cultural messaging that surrounds and gets inside of us. It speaks to the deeper challenge of shepherding our true, vulnerable selves through the chaos and the interstices in an authentic way. The lamb, for me, represents that vulnerable self. The blue paint on its coat could represent human or cultural influence, yet also show that influence to be superficial.
Where we are traveling is still unclear to me, but I am trying to walk the path gently, with empathy for self and for others. I am unsure of a god in any traditional sense. I am unsure of many things. This work represents the path of the soul to me, but I like the idea that people with a more religious background might bring different associations. While I was painting this, a song I hadn’t heard for many years kept repeating in my head, and it gifted me with the title, ‘Just Keep on Walking’. The chorus goes, “God, give me strength to keep on walking. God, give me strength to keep on, keep on.” And that is perhaps the best we can do especially in these troubled times.” – Megan Elizabeth Reed