As human beings, no matter the tribe, having a sense of belonging plays a crucial role in securing individual and communal identity. Varying demographically, socially and economically, this sense of belonging connects and binds relationships providing incentives, opportunities for advocacy and a natural support for causes and ideas. Many communities, inspired by artistic endeavors, often use them to better connect with others.
Artists tread the rocky landscape and its unpredictable inclinations for the love of the craft and the fulfillment it brings. Many artists are inadvertently disconnected from adequate real-life interactions, in part due to the instant, yet unfulfilling, “gratification” of social media.
“We’re so captivated by social media and everything that's not important is now important. We tend to forget about the things that were really monumental,” says Rain Dogs owner, the musician Christina Wagner.
On July 13, Rain Dogs, a music venue, gallery and late-night bar in Five Points, introduced a project for and by local artists. RAW DOGS, a Rain Dogs Art Calendar, hosts 19 artists partitioned into six groups for a collective art show to run for a period of one year. The groups are given primary creative control over their show’s visual and audial planning with minimal guidance from a curator.
“The originality of this calendar provides opportunity and growth for so many in a way that has not yet been done,” says Rosalie Lagao, Rain Dogs bartender and the space’s curator. “My consciousness craves to smooth edges in the realms of energy and flow, therefore, I view this calendar as an album, the shows being songs and the artists [as] musicians.”
Lagao, 32, has made it her mission to bring the Five Points art community closer together by combining emerging and veteran artists. “Most of the artists on this calendar didn't know each other prior to this project. We are bringing in a lot of different personalities without expecting them to fit a mold,” explains Lagao.
“What Rosalie and I are trying to do with the art scene is bring it back to a really great time in our lives when everything was a lot simpler. I feel like we lost our community and I feel like a lot of the problems we have now [are due to the] lack of communication and people’s unwillingness to find solutions,” says Wagner.
Until recently, Wagner, 36, coordinated the gallery space. But once Lagao entered the scene, Wagner felt she had found the person to fill a challenging role.
“I felt so confident in her meticulous nature. I could only relinquish those responsibilities when I knew that it would be done the way that I would do it, but with more focus,” says Wagner.
The first RAW DOGS exhibition, Crawling Creep, features Carolyn Jernigan, Martin Moore and Sarah McDonald.
Artist Moore works in a bold experimental surrealism, in the vein of René Magritte and André Breton. Here the maniacal and risqué are intertwined with a vibrant multidimensional intensity that translates into psychotic manifestations that give the observers an in-depth view of the ominous, psychedelic universe he creates.
One of the more prominent figures on the upcoming calendar is Jason Wright, 42, who, at a very young age, found inspiration in artistic narration from watching early-morning cartoons.
“I was born in ’75, so from the ’80s to mid-’90s, there’s a lot of nostalgia. It’s been a long time but, professionally, I’ve been making money and doing art shows since I was probably about 20,” said Wright.
When Lagao approached him with the RAW DOGS calendar initiative, it sparked a new trajectory and readiness to make more fantasy-driven works. Being part of an artists' group helped him acknowledge the value of encouraging younger artists to find their place and purpose. Wright believes Lagao is a positive force many people need in their lives.
RAW DOGS has incorporated a community-driven incentive in every show, helping new artists find their niche market to better network and develop their craft as well as themselves. As a result, bringing the “old Five Points” back, a place where people are more involved in creative explorations, has become a part of Rain Dogs’ mission.
RAW DOGS is about the connectivity that results from community engagement.
According to Neurobiology Research Technician Trevor Haynes’ 2018 Harvard Medical School report, smartphones and social media platforms “are turning us into bona fide addicts.” In the report, Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of User Growth at Facebook, admitted to feeling “tremendous guilt” over his involvement in exploiting consumer behavior. While smartphones are not inherently addictive, the attachments to these devices are linked to the “social” environments they provide.
“Social media is satiating many members' sense of community and connection to the determent of face-to-face exchange and interaction. I do not doubt this particular conclusion, but it is not the only conclusion that can be drawn,” Ana Kamiar, photographer and educator, says.
Kamiar, 43, is participating in the upcoming September show, Honeyed Branches, with Kevin Arthur, Justin Drosten and Carolyn Jernigan, opening on Sept. 14. Her unique black-and-white photography is realized with a pensive execution introducing concepts of duality and interconnectivity, often expressed in seemingly overlooked and passive moments in the cityscape. Kamiar uses poetic substance to synthesize the macrocosm to the microcosm of self.
“From the universe to the smallest cell, we are one and the same. I believe I can find the answer to all of society's ailments and our existence in myself, so I am trying to find it and the output is the art,” says Kamiar. “Those are the inspirations and then there’s an image that reflects all of that.”
Whether completely conceptualized or not, an adjuvant beyond the senses impels the heart and mind to create, develop and perfect an honest portrayal of the human condition. Perhaps best exemplified in Lagao’s statement: “Not stuffy, perfectly imperfect and all-encompassing.”
Interested in participating? Find “How To Apply” at Instagram, @rdawg5pts.
Crawling Creep, featuring Carolyn Jernigan, Martin Moore and Sarah McDonald, exhibits through August at Rain Dogs, 1045 Park St., Five Points.