JACKSON, Wyo. — What does art do? Anticipating his Fall Arts Festival exhibit at Altamira Fine Art, Geoffrey Gersten considers this question and the answer his new paintings posit. For him, art bridges the individual and the ideal. Art magnifies the scale and the significance of everyday life. His Altamira show runs from September 6 to 18, with artist receptions Sept. 16 and 17 from 1 to 4 p.m.
By his brush, subtle moments become symbolic of greater truths—a gesture that harkens back to classic Golden Age romances. Love—writ large on silver screens—represents the most exuberant expression of human emotion, the gilded fulfillment of relatable intentions. Hollywood, like religion, casts icons out of real feelings. “Silver screen romances attempt to represent the greater ideal of true love,” the artist says
Gersten considers the symbolic nature of embodiment: how bodies enact instinct and intentions, sometimes achieving even greater effect. As is the case with body language, which so often transcends spoken communication. In this movement from somatic to symbolic, Gersten sees greatness beyond self. “Everything we do is part of something bigger,” he says.
Ever interested in cultural artifacts as source material, Gersten has found 350 film negatives from the 30s through 60s, quiet scenes framing daily life. “I’m finding everyday romance in these slides,” he says. “Expressions of love that are so much more beautiful and appealing because they are real.” Such excavations remind him of a personal memory: years ago, his dad laid a concrete slab for a hot tub.
Right before installation, his son noticed a small heart carved into the concrete bearing the initials of his father and mother—a gesture that would soon be covered over, yet in its making represented a deep expression of love. “The scale of real life is much smaller and simpler than the great romances of Hollywood,” Gersten says. By depicting the former in the style of the latter, he finds an empathetic resolution in art.