Envy, the most corrosive of the seven deadly sins, makes its appearance at the Hudson River Museum from June 6 to September 26, 2015. Envy is interpreted by multimedia artist Adrien Broom in photographs and life-sized scenes from fairy tales, the stories of passion, evil, and redemption that have thrilled us for centuries.
Unlike the sins of lust or gluttony, there seems little pleasure taken from envy. Evil stepmothers, plotting kings, and vainglorious queens of fairy tales are alive with desire for what others have, just as alive as the tales themselves, the stories that reflect our own experiences and desires.
One thing universal in all fairy tales is their colorful recording of the strivings and errors of others, and then the moral, the right way to act, that emerges from the fairy tale. Connivers for riches or for the love of someone promised to another are sure to be ruined by evil envy, just as the person envied will win out, get the prince, win the princess. As we read fairy tales we see ourselves as we are and as we should be. “Once Upon a Time” is the inviting opener to the story the lays before us on the page but the fairy tale has another dimension — it is eerily similar to the today’s Google Search, where we can see into the lives of others without being seen, not on a page, but on a screen. We still mull, we still learn.
Snow White’s Evil Queen, the great archetype of envy appears in two guises at the heart of the exhibitions the White Queen and the Black Queen. She wears custom gowns — one white, one black, and appears in two separate photographs. First, wearing the white gown (standing before her mirror and still morally redeemable) and next, in black (holding a blood-red heart and consumed by envy). The two magnificent costumes also appear on stylized mannequins that float, suspended, in the Museum Atrium.
A Web of Envy ensnares the Queen, both white and black, embodied as heads locked together in a dance — the Dance of Death. Cocooned and caught within the poisonous Web, too, are famous fairy tale symbols made real as objects: Pieces of gold and mirrors, objects that connote the age-old envious thirst for beauty, wealth, and power. Artistic signifiers of envy are seen all through the exhibition. In particular, an illuminated plinth showcases a hand-blown glass apple that appears in Broom’s photographs.
This Museum-wide exhibition includes a photographic Portrait Gallery of Fairy Tale Characters, showing Cinderella and Snow White, and in other less known but nonetheless chilling for the envy they show: The Singing Bone, The Black Bride and the White Bride, The Three Little Birds, and Beauty and the Beast We may not recognize the names of all the characters that Broom shows us in her photographs but some of the faces in her portraits are straight from today’s media — such as the Firestone Sisters, Mary and Lucy, travelers and lifestyle enablers, who, here, are the Black and White Bride, from the Grimm fairy tale, or, Chef Mario Batali, as King, ever present benevolent or not ruler in the fairy tale. Broom also creates three-dimensional Storytelling in a Box “stage sets”: the first, the Dwarf’s Cottage where Snow White is protected and tempted; second, the dressing room of Cinderella’s envious step-sisters.
Adrien Broom lives and works in Brooklyn and is an artist with a penchant for the bizarre and beautiful. She took a degree in computer animation from Northeastern University and studied fine art in Florence and art history in London. Broom's photographs have been featured in numerous exhibitions in Connecticut and New York City, as well as in the American Dreamers exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence in 2012. The exhibion Envy is organized by the Hudson River Museum and curated by Bartholomew Bland, the Museum’s Deputy Director.
Envy: One Sin, Seven Stories at the Hudson River Museum is part of The Seven Deadly Sins, the inaugural exhibition of the Fairfield/Westchester Museum Alliance (FWMA), a cultural collaboration begun in 2009. Each member organization presents one of the seven deadly sins, from spring to fall, 2015. Sin, the favorite subject of poets and painters, also provides grist for FWMA’s provocative summer programming, which is offered to the public and FREE to the members of FWMA organizations.
Envy: One Sin, Seven Stories