Mint's 'Fairytales' exhibit is magical and macabre

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

By Katie Scarvey
CHARLOTTE — If you find your way to the new ‘Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear’ exhibit at the Mint Museum uptown, you just might slip into that dark psychic territory that sits largely undisturbed during your waking hours — regions that might be explored at night in phantasmagorical dreams or nightmares right out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
The mesmerizing ‘Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear’ opened this past weekend and continues through July 8.
In terms of pop culture relevance, the exhibit couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Fairy-themed TV shows like ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and NBC’s “Grimm” are hot — and when America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts morphs into the Evil Queen (in the soon-to-be-released “Mirror, Mirror”), you know that fairy tales are looming large in the national zeitgeist.
The artists in this exhibit have used some unusual materials to plumb the depths of fairy tale and fantasy.
British furniture designer Tom Price has created a glorious forest of trees — made of polypropylene plumbing pipe. Lashed together, the pipe forms sensuous, sinewy and unexpectedly beautiful tree trunks. Thousands of pieces of cut pipe combine to make an airy forest canopy. The overall effect is magical.
On the less ethereal end of the spectrum is the tar — yes, the black, gooey stuff — used by Italian artist Mattia Biagi. Biagi has taken the iconic pumpkin coach from Cinderella and rendered it in tar, suggesting a defiled innocence — or a fantasy gone bad. But scarier still is his Little Red Riding Hood — with a hideous wolf’s head peeking out of the scarlet cape.
Japanese paper artist Kako Ueda has delved into themes of mortality with a richly detailed cut paper piece featuring a death’s head and insects, along with lush — though black — foliage.
“I wanted to make something that represents life and death,” Ueda said during a sneak preview of the exhibit March 2. Indeed, there is in this imposing and complex piece the sense of life springing messily out of death and decay. Ueda explained that she began contemplating death more intensely, while serving as the caretaker for her mother, who suffered a near-fatal brain aneurism.
The snake, that durable archetype of evil, is prominently featured on the exhibit’s North Carolina face jugs, which have historically embraced the grotesque. The “fear” part of the exhibit also includes a pottery piece that while somewhat whimsical in style is also probably too Hannibal Lecter-ish to describe here.
Other works are funny and fanciful — like the hand-knit acrylic recreations of super-hero costumes by fiber artist Mark Newport.
“Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear” pairs nicely with the “Surrealism and Beyond” exhibit, which continues through May 13 at the Mint.
“The sources of inspiration for these artists also interested the Surrealists — the dream world, the occult, fairytales, oral traditions, esoteric religions, and the world of the unconscious,” notes Annie Carlano, the Mint’s director of Craft + Design.
The Mint has partnered with N.C. Dance Theatre, which is exploring its own fairytale theme with performances of “Sleeping Beauty” this March. Ticket buyers to “Sleeping Beauty,” which runs March 8-18, can receive free admission to both locations of The Mint Museum on Saturday March 10 and Saturday March 17, while Mint members can receive a 25 percent discount on the purchase of “Sleeping Beauty” tickets. For more information on “Sleeping Beauty,” visit
After taking in the “Fairytales, Fantasy and Fear” exhibit, you’ll want to explore the rest of the five-story museum, which houses the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, as well as outstanding collections of American, contemporary and European art.
The Mint Museum Uptown is located at 500 S. Tryon St. in Charlotte.
For information about admission and hours, go to or call 704-337-2000.