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Review: Campfire Stories at LeMieux Galleries

Hell in Middle American from John Donovan and Mark Hosford

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We have all heard chilling accounts of the diabolical harm that "coastal elites" — such as Wall Street tycoons and entertainers — have inflicted on innocent Middle Americans. In 2016, Middle America defiantly rebelled by electing a New York real estate tycoon and reality TV host as president. He quickly put rich Wall Street bankers in charge of the treasury and economic policy, so presumably America is great again. But if chilling visions of "coastal elites" still give you nightmares, this John Donovan and Mark Hosford show at LeMieux Galleries may be the antidote. Based in the very un-coastal country music capital, Nashville, Tennessee, they have eloquently reinvigorated traditional Americana with timely tweaks that make their work especially relevant to this unique juncture in our long national journey.

  As I once learned from a Baptist preacher in rural Georgia, nothing is more Middle American than the devil, and Hosford's infernal seriograph

Lil' Devil (pictured) updates the lord of darkness with details including a modified mohawk haircut and "Love" and "Hate" tattooed on his hands as they wrestle with the proverbial serpent of temptation. Attachment 1 depicts a traditional, "authentic" Middle American man clutched in the dark embrace of a demon symbolizing the choice between tradition and the mercurial modern world. Modernity and its discontents are elucidated in Cubist Hell, in which Lego blocklike forms appear densely stacked like buildings in a modern city. Topped with Lego-like skulls emitting smoke, they depict modernity as a modular maze of pre-fab confusion. John Donovan's clay sculptures further elaborate the theme in Martha Stewart Memento Mori No. 1, a square skull totem rendered in seductive muted colors — a sensibility eloquently reinforced in his decorative dinner platter Campfire Stories, adorned with skulls and demons celebrating Middle Americans' love of being terrified by anything they don't understand. Similarly, his Blue Memento Mori 3 platter features a square skull embellished with decorative vines, and his Devil's Double platter tastefully mixes skulls and devils in a design that surely would make Martha Stewart proud.

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