How could I write about shrine artists and leave out Michael deMeng? He specializes in “making the unsacred into something seemingly sacred.” Interesting word, “seemingly.” Obstensibly, apparently, seemingly all cast doubt on the authenticity of the item in question. Of course, deMeng uses objects in his assemblages that make hilarious and outrageous connections between the sacred and profane (such as his lightbulb shrine–a “better idea” in shrine making, and his “Head Sea Scrolls” made with toilet paper dispensers–certainly more fun than, say, the Dead Sea Scrolls, unless you are a religious scholar).
There is, however, an artist to whom the word seemingly simply would not apply. Her name is Dale Devereux Copeland. This woman does smart art. I’m not trying to sound cute about her work–there is nothing cute about it. Her work is intriguing and thought provoking, as are the comments she provides about process, inspiration, subject matter. And despite, or perhaps because of, a penetrating intelligence, Copeland has chosen an optimistic approach to life:
People have been puzzled by the contrast: my optimism and enthusiasm for living seen against my work, which finds its beauty in images of fear, death, and the follies of the living. To me there is no contradiction: given the horrors, the brevity and the pain, an intense joy is the only rational response; dance till they drop you, exult while you can.
I couldn’t agree more–why waste one’s brief dance on earth being miserable? I prefer to explore beauty, creativity and joy. Why solicit ugliness, destruction and depression? Shallow? I think not. There is nothing shallow about joy. I’m exulting with you, Dale!