Faces of fear

Masters of the dark arts at Clash’s Phobia art show

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Doll phobia piece by Erica Blackstock

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the word “phobia” as “an extremely strong dislike or fear of someone or something.” Depending on who you are talking to, a person could have phobias or a plethora of irrational and innocuous fears: germs, crowds, insects, and virtually anything else you can think of. As part of Dayton’s First Friday festivities, this weekend Clash Gallery & Boutique will play host to the Phobia art show, where a multitude of local artists will display works dedicated to a variety of phobias—both well known and obscure—that is sure to strike a nerve with many of those who chose to attend.

Phobia is one of several annual, theme-based art shows that have been staged in Dayton by Mary Kathryn Burnside, owner of Clash in downtown Dayton’s historic Oregon District. Clash focuses on selling clothing and artistic items, by the people of the Gem City, on a consignment basis and also doubles as an event space for art shows. When the business opened its doors in the summer of 2011, Burnside had a vision of Clash as a unique operation where Dayton’s more forward-thinking artists and crafty types had a place to shine.

“I felt there was a need for a place like Clash because at the time we opened there wasn’t any other shop like it around,” Burnside explains. “There were art galleries, but none of them would give many of the dark or lowbrow artists the opportunity to show or sell their work, and not many places focused on locally made products at the time. Dayton is full of young, talented, artistic people who need to get their work in the public eye. Clash gives all artistic types that opportunity.”

Even prior to the existence of Clash, Burnside often orchestrated one-night-only art shows at several clubs and bars in downtown Dayton, sometimes centered around a theme, asking local artists to create art specifically for that event concept, then proudly displaying the results.

“I think it gives artists a challenge to think outside of their normal subject matter they like to create on a regular basis,” Burnside says. “How they create and show the meaning (of a theme) through their own style of artwork is exciting for the artist and viewer alike through the whole process. It is fun for me to see what they come up with.”

One of Burnside’s most enduring and popular themes is the annual Phobia art show, in which the art created and displayed focuses on things people tend to be afraid of. Even if you have previously been to a Phobia show, Burnside promises that what you’ll be seeing this time around will be all new, promising to be a treat to both newcomer and longtime patron.

“This is the eighth year I have organized the Phobia show—it is my favorite themed show I put on,” Burnside says. “All of the artwork is different each year as I do not allow the same piece to be shown twice. There are new artists this year who have not participated in the past, as well as many of the same artists who have been involved with several of the shows prior.”

For the 2016 edition of Phobia, attendees can expect sculpture, paintings, photography, and mixed media depicting a variety of fears, including bats, clowns, cats, women, food, firearms, needles, coffins, pregnancy, and much more from roughly two dozen artists. A veteran artist of the Phobia series is Erica Blackstock, who looks forward to creating art for this show every year, as well as witnessing the work of her peers.

“This is my sixth year doing the Phobia show,” Blackstock says. “I love the concept of this show. I started doing this show because it gave me the artistic freedom to do whatever I want, which gave me the ability to show my dark art. I look forward to this show every year, not only because I love creating for it but I love seeing what the artists do with the phobias they chose.”

On the opposite side of the coin is artist Tracy McElfresh, who will display her artwork for the first time at this year’s Phobia. McElfresh, like many artists in Dayton, is grateful for Burnside’s efforts in promoting visual artists in Dayton.

“I got involved with Phobia after attending the show over the years and loving the process,” McElfresh says. “I think it is awesome what Mary does for pushing the envelope on these art shows! Because of her, we have the opportunity to have our work shown, as well as inspire the community.”

And in the end, Phobia is not just about appreciating fantastic art from citizens of the Gem City. If you’re not careful, you just might learn something in the process.

“One of my favorite things about this show is that it’s educational,” Burnside explains. “It is fun learning what phobias are out there and seeing how artists represent them in so many different ways.”

The Phobia art show takes place Friday, Nov. 4 at Clash Gallery & Boutique, 521 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District in downtown Dayton. The event is free to the public and begins at 5 p.m. For more information, please visit ClashDayton.com or Clash Dayton/Facebook.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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