December 2 - 14, 2020
Merriam Webster Definition
1a: a pupa of a butterfly broadly : an insect pupa
b: the hardened outer protective layer of a pupa
2: a protecting covering also : a sheltered state or stage of being or growth … a budding writer could not emerge from his chrysalis too soon. — William Du Boi
The unseen viral pandemic has stopped the world in its tracks; silencing the busy airports and streets, the markets and malls, the churches and parks. COVID-19 drove us to our homes; and put a sudden halt to the accelerated rhythms of our factories and cities, the product of decades of increasingly frenetic energy which brought us to where we were, far from the last great disruption of World War II. It has slowed down the wheels of progress that fueled world economies and our personal dreams. And led to a lot of uncertainty and suffering for many. As well as clearer airs, seas, and skies. It may as well be what Richard Bach said in Illusions: “What the caterpillar sees as the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”
A chrysalis is the in-between state between a caterpillar and a butterfly. Characterized by a tough exterior, it is where the caterpillar dissolves itself cell-by-cell through enzymes into a soupy heap, and almost magically reform itself into a butterfly. It loses some of its appendages and a great deal of its body mass, and grow wings, antennae, and the proboscis with which it will feed itself with nectar, when, as a caterpillar it ate leaves to become the graceful and colorful butterfly. It undergoes a miraculous transformation, an adaptation that allowed butterflies to survive as a species for at least 200,000,000 years.
Jonathan Dangue’s eighth solo exhibition Chrysalis draws inspiration from this wondrous natural transformation, and uses it as the main metaphor for this collection of works. Believing that the sudden withdrawal and isolation we all had to go through is a spiritual retreat rather than just a mundane act of survival, Dangue believes that the quieting we experienced will enable those who immerse themselves in it to transform into better spiritual beings able to exist in a more refined way. In this way, this exhibition is an act of faith in a better future.
In Chrysalis, Dangue wrought eighteen sculptures from copper and brass to enclose natural crystals and gems to make his hopes tangible. Using his bare hands to twist and bend metal, he wraps gems that are believed in certain circles to transform and resonate energies into favorable states of being such as mindfulness, healing, protection, peace, prosperity, and success; similar in intent and technique evidenced in his sixth solo exhibition, Stoic Drinks. Aside from being aesthetic objects, his artworks have a talismanic bent with the intent of channeling good energies to those who get them, and shielding them from harmful energies and intent.
If we are to think of the evolutionary success that butterflies have achieved over the hundreds of millions of years of their existence, perhaps, this watershed event would lead us all to the much-needed transformation we need as a species to continue living on this Earth. The world has evolved and survived several mass extinction events, and will surely continue without us. But at this crucial time in our species’ existence, we either adapt, or we will perish. We cannot live in a toxic world of our own doing, but if we are gone, the natural world will continue without us. We have to restore balance in the world, as we need to restore balance within us – between our basest desires and our spiritual nature, as Dangue asserts. It is what other artists have expressed after times of great unrest, as surely as the poet Kathleen O’ Meara wrote after the great famine in Ireland, which goes:
And the people stayed home
And read books and listened
And rested and exercised
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And listened deeper
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed
And in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
Dangerous, meaningless, and heartless,
Even the earth began to heal
And when the danger ended
And people found each other
Grieved for the dead people
And they made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of life
And healed the earth completely
Just as they were healed themselves.
— Ricky Francisco