Exhibition: “Baroque Grotesque” – For the Delight of the Eye


Baroque Grotesque
– For the Delight of the Eye

“Beauty is the perfection of sensual knowledge as such. Beauty is in the experience and is tied to the subjective.”
– Aesthetica, Alexander Buamgarten (1714-1762)

Norwegian-American artist Tom Garretson’s exhibition Baroque Grotesque creates a new formal poetry through his exquisite art photography, taking beauty into the realm of the “ugly.” Using familiar objects of classical art and architecture from both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, as well as both the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Garretson fuses these photographic images with additional manipulated “ugly” figurative objects of the modern era, resulting in a visual transformation where the viewer’s perception is uniquely meshed with their subconscious imagination. Baroque Grotesque – For the delight of the eye.
Kunstfotografi utstillingen Baroque Grotesque av norsk-amerikaneren Tom Garretson søker en ny formell poesi som bærer skjønnhet frem til hvor styggheten befinner seg. Ved å bruke kjente historiske gjenstander fra oldtidens kunst og arkitektur i både Hellas og Roma, samt fra renessansen og barokkens tid, fusjonerer Garretson disse fotografiske bildene med manipulerte “stygge” figurative gjenstander av moderne tider. Dette resulterer i en visuell transformasjon der publikumets gjenkjennelse og fantasi går hånd i hånd. Barok Grotesque – For synets glede.


Exhibition: 14.-24. March 2019

Opening hours: Thursdays & Fridays* (4-7pm), Saturdays & Sundays (12 Noon – 4pm)

Vernissage: Thursday, 14. March ~ 18-20h (6-8pm)


Five years studying art history and aesthetic philosophy has served as a springboard for my latest art photography project, Baroque Grotesque. The inspiration derives from studying the aesthetic theories of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Baumgarten, Baudrillard, Nietzsche, Danto, and many others. However, it was never my intention to repeat their postulations in my work but to instead respond visually to their ideas. Theory and rhetoric destroy the poetry in art.

Cultural perceptions and ideals of beauty and unattainable perfection is something I’ve used in the extreme in this project. Instead of repeating these cultural assumptions, I have instead sought to apply such aesthetic theories in exaggeration, in distortion, so as to seek out the ugly, the dissonant, the perverse and the grotesque to create new forms of visual poetry.

My process has been to photograph objects of antique art and architecture from Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Renaissance, and the Baroque era, found in collections housed in London, Paris, Naples, and Rome. Also, contemporary objects such as a corpse, tires, car wreck, etc. considered “ugly” were photographed. These figurative objects were in turn transformed into completely abstract images, and then again further manipulated (cut-up, kaleidoscope, depth layering, mirror symmetry) so as to change them back into something approaching the figurative within the viewer’s mind. The meaning of the works is entirely subjective, allowing the viewer to access their own free-association from their subconscious.

Further, I have used the characteristics of the baroque era as my modus operandi and guidelines: pictures are infused with an emotional intensity; they capture a moment of time, frozen; instability plays a key role, playing on diagonals, energy and movement, inviting the viewer to come closer into the work to become directly involved in creating their own meaning which may not be found in the work’s original intent; and finally, it is a play on the real, the idealized becoming not idealized, where interrupted contours fuse with the effects of light to direct the viewer’s focus into their own reflected psyche. The Baroque fascination with trompe l’oeil is also a direct influence on this project. All of these works adhere to the Baroque aesthetic in the context of the photographic image but in non-traditional methods and forms, exaggerated, theatrical and extravagant. Pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus to perceive a familiar pattern where none exists, plays a significant part in this exhibition’s works.

Baroque Grotesque takes beauty into the realm of the “ugly”, to seek out a new formal poetry. The canon of Western art becomes unrecognizable, but its style is recognizable by the viewer, connoting something they feel they have seen, but cannot exactly place. The works are transformed, becoming entirely different works which exist solely inside the mind of the viewer. The original meanings are lost, re-created by the viewer’s responses to the work. Photography is used in an entirely non-traditional format.

Galleri Schaeffers Gate 5

Schæffers gate 5, 0558 Sofienberg, Oslo
tel (+47) 45218078
Contact person: Mark Steiner

website: http://schaeffersgate5.no
email: schaeffersgate5@gmail.com
facebook: http://facebook.com/SchaeffersGate5

Open normally during exhibitions on
Thursdays & Fridays* (4-7pm), Saturdays & Sundays (12 Noon – 4pm)

Artist Contact:

Tom Garretson

Tel. (+47) 481 45 048

T O M  G A R R E T S O N

B I O G R A P H Y  2 0 1 8

Tom Garretson is a multi-disciplinary Native American/Norwegian artist working in the fields of art photography, music, writing, theatre and performance art.

In the late 1970’s as a teenager he was active in New York City rock/art underground scene based around the infamous nightclub Max’s Kansas City. That scene’s infusion of renegade art, literature, alternative music, theatre and film would have a lasting influence upon him. Simultaneously, at the age of 15, he was introduced to the music, films and art of the Weimar period by an elderly refugee German librarian. This provided him with a life-long interest in German Expressionism, Surrealism, Dada, and in the films, theatre and art works of that period. Ultimately this resulted in the recording Sound and Smoke: The Music of the Berlin Cabaret Era, a project he instigated and produced in 2004, after receiving a grant to do research in Berlin. The CD received international accolades, with noted German historian and author of the period Peter Jelavich writing, “This is the best modern recording of Weimar cabaret music I’ve ever heard — and I’ve heard a lot!”

Garretson received his education in Musicology, Composition and Poetic Drama at New York University, and studied Jazz Guitar at Loyola School of Music in New Orleans. In 2010 he received his degree in Art Photography from the Oslo School of Art Photography (Oslo Fotokunstskole). Further, he decided to complete his studies in Musicology at the University of Oslo, while simultaneously obtaining a bachelor’s degree in art history. He completed his master’s degree in art history in 2016 there also, writing his thesis on “Dancing on the Abyss: George Grosz, Otto Dix, Christian Schad and the Influence of Cabaret Culture.”

As a musician and composer, he performed with Burnt Sienna, Cosa Nostra, and The Flames of Paradise. He has produced numerous albums for Lydia Lunch, Einmal Kommt die Liebe, the Ophelia Orchestra, and as executive producer for Karin Krog, Silje Nergaard and Arve Tellefsen, as well as produced demos for Anne Grete Preus and the artist Tom Hugo.

From 1990 to 2004 he worked in the music industry, gaining extensive professional experience as a producer, director, and as a consultant in marketing and promotion. He has been employed by PolyGram to head the labels Verve Jazz and Phillips Classics in Norway; as Label Director for Sony Music he oversaw Columbia Jazz and Sony Classics in Norway; as a live event producer for NGM (London and Oslo) producing stadium concerts, musicals, and tours with internationally renowned classical and jazz musicians and singers such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Shirley Bassey, among others.

In 1998 he formed his own creative arts and management company WildStar World with the intention of using his considerable professional experience in marketing, promotion and contracting, in the interest of furthering his own and other artists’ artistic endeavors. His first signing to his company was in the management of acclaimed artist Lydia Lunch, whom he continues to have a close association with today. He also managed the jazz singer Silje Nergaard‘s career, raising her status from “a dead artist” in the industry to becoming the best-selling jazz artist in Norway, and the no. 2 best-selling jazz artist in Europe, after obtaining a recording contract for her with Universal Music. Universal Music also hired him as an independent promotion and marketing expert, resulting in three consecutive no. 1, platinum-selling albums for that artist. He also booked national and international touring for Nergaard, traveling to Asian countries and also spent three weeks in Germany for a National Representation Tour with the Crown Prince of Norway, HRM Prince Haakon, hired by the Foreign Service (Utenriksdepartement) in Norway to produce the tour in 2002. In 2004, he decided to leave the music industry and devote his time to studies and to focus on his own creative works.

As an actor, writer and performer he has appeared in his own avant-garde performances such as the AlterPorn Cabaret in Oslo, Norway, and in numerous Edward Weiss Off-Broadway theatre plays in New York. He has also performed his own dramatic poetry performances in the US, Norway and Italy. His photographing of transvestites was featured in the first episode of NRK TV’s Jentene Fra Toten (The Girls from Toten) in 2010. In 2012 he played the part of “Diablo” in A Short Film About Incompetence directed by Matt Willis-Jones. He has also lectured at the University of Chicago in Paris in 2015 on “Art Versus Commerce: The Struggle for Artistic Independence”, and again in 2017 on “Berlin Cabaret is at the Heart of Transgression”, for their Transgressive Cultures Conference. He has also appeared on NRK P2 National Radio discussing Berlin cabaret as an art form.

His writings and photography have appeared in many magazines, newspapers and books in the USA, the UK and Norway. Most recently his photographs of Lydia Lunch were featured in the French television series Vernon Subutex, written by Virginie Despentes, and also in Pleading the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey (Intellect Books Ltd., 2013), The Gun Is Loaded (2008) by Lydia Lunch, and No Wave by Marc Masters (2007), both published by Black Dog Publishing UK. He was also a regular contributor of writing and photography to Paraphilia Magazine (USA and UK) from 2008 to 2013. He has exhibited in the USA, China and in Norway in solo and group exhibitions of his photography, also mixing performance art with photography and involving the public as active performers in his works.

In June of 2008, he was invited to perform with noted artists Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens at the European Cultural Capital 2008 festival, in Stavanger, Norway. The performance caused a media riot and quickly became an exercise in media manipulation and self-righteous censorship. He also recorded, wrote and produced an album with Sprinkle and Stephens, entitled Love Art Lab, (Provocateur Media, 2008) using the pseudonym of “Guttersaint”. In August the following year, he was invited to perform his work “Burning Lights” at the Venice Biennale’s Spanish Pavilion, for a live performance hosted by Sprinkle and Stephens, for their Eco-Sexual Blue Wedding to The Sea. He was also the event photographer. That same year he collaborated with the Iranian art photographer Adel Bonakdarpour under the moniker of Phototerroristas, in a work titled US THEM, using photography and performance to explore terrorism, the work of Dr. Stanley Milgram, and negative categorization and objectification in juxtaposed photographic images with confrontational, manipulative behavior. In 2011, he completed a three-year “Exquisite Corpse” art photography project titled “On Pleasure” with Lydia Lunch and the Chinese artist Joyce Lui Ying. In 2012, he performed a photographic performance art piece in his solo art exhibition at the Låvegalleriet, Galleri Lyshuset, in Skarnes, Norway, titled Name Your Poison.

Garretson continues to work as an independent artist working outside the mainstream, institutionalized art scene, in the disciplines of art photography, music, writing and performance internationally while being based in Norway.

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