Abigail Goldman, a former newspaper reporter and crime investigator, now makes art. Landscape art. Well, not exactly landscape, although you recognize the usual landscape elements. There’s the land in its varying manifestations, lush greenery, sandy deserts, seasides, towns and suburbs. There are people in these landscapes, also of varying genders, sizes and deportment. You recognize the iconic elements of America, motels, hot dog stands, beautiful Victorian neighborhoods and classic trailer parks. There are the usual items that might make up a typical landscape scene, everything from picnic tables and old gardening equipment to antique advertising signs on the sides of old buildings and the tiny piles of sand that collect on roof tops. The people you initially notice are all involved in the typical activities of daily life, like mowing lawns, talking on a cell phone, surfing or ordering their lunch at a hot dog stand. Everything in these wonderful scenes is beautifully rendered in masterful detail.
But, there’s something terribly wrong with Ms Goldman’s world. To start with, it’s tiny ~ I mean really tiny. Especially considering that everything in these landscapes is made in actual 3-dimensions. The characters in each tableau are no more than an inch tall. A couple of these people and their activities will fit into a 3” x 3” x 3” half-globe. An entire street scene with multiple buildings, cars and a dozen characters will fit into a 14” x 6” x 7” space. However, it is not the scale that makes her work truly unusual.
These tiny tableaus are scenes of horrifying, bloody violence. Murders, mutilations and destruction are happening just out of sight. Abby Goldman’s America is a place none of us wants to live in, but many of us know we do. A world where, just behind these iconic scenes, people have gone mad … or maybe, just maybe, the crazy ones are the tiny folks who are determined to go about their daily lives and not look at the mayhem that surrounds them. To some, this may not seem like reality. Well, have a look at today’s headlines and then take another look at Abigail’s world. We all carry on our lives while wars, genocides, murders, rapes and all manner of horrifying violence go on at the same time. To most, those events aren’t actually HERE, they’re over there … just over the hill, or over the border or over the ocean …. not, as in Abby’s world, just behind your back.
Lovely idealism colliding headlong with earth-bound fury. How does one deal with this level of charm and madness? I’m not sure, but as I look closely (there is no other way to see her work) I feel my opened-mouthed shock slowly turn into a smile. Seems there is another even more unexpected element at play, also crucial to Abby’s world and as inescapable as the madness: these scenes are funny ... sometimes very funny. There is a charm and innocence about the tiny-ness of the landscapes, the incredibly cute itty-bitty houses and towns that raises the viewer above the mayhem, providing distance to see and feel the absurdity. This disparity between the wholesomeness and the horror just can’t compute and it becomes, well … amusing. And when you think about it,
is there a better way to deal with the incomprehensible contradictions of our time?
So, to attempt an answer my own question, what in the world is the matter with Abigail Goldman? The answer is obvious … there is nothing the matter with Ms Goldman, the matter is the world … or rather, more specifically, the problem is us. The power of Ms Goldman’s work is that she turns the table on the viewer and exposes our own personal fears. But she helps the viewer take in this upsetting vision with a large dose of humor.
So, I think I’ll go home and NOT read a newspaper … I could use some serious relief from the stark reality of Ms Goldman’s
gut wrenching-funny little world.
Abigail Goodman's show :
804 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Dan Hubig © 2016
Dan Hubig is an illustrator who lives in San Francisco, he was the political cartoonist, art director, illustrator, layout artist and newspaper deliveryman for the original Austin Sun.