Artist: Richard Rightsell
Exhibition: An Evocation, A Relic, An Altar, and an Obelisk
Media: Photographs, Lights, Audio, Frames, Wood, Metal, Copper Plate, Paint, etc.
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Merlino Gallery
Justin Rightsell is a graduate school student pursing an MA in photography in Long Beach’s School of the Arts. He describes his childhood as one that was rebellious and punk-like. Rejecting of cultures, he despised the status quo and saw many things wrong with it – things such as gender roles and masculinity. One of his strongest beliefs is that we are told how to feel by the media (which he claims “fucks with our heads”) and society. Rejecting being told what to do and how to think, Rightsell took it upon his own hands to learn what he was attracted to and how to think. He is deeply interested in the supernatural which led to him having multiple attempts at contacting the dead with a Ouija board and a trip to Crescent City to see aliens. Lately his beliefs have started to shift ever since he started looking into philosophies. His view of masculinity has changed and now he has learned to somewhat embrace it. Rightsell claims that one of the purposes of the exhibition was to convey his new view of masculinity.
When walking into the exhibition, you first encounter a barrier. Two veils of black cloth blocks the light from entering the dimly lit room. You are then hit by the creepy but hypnotizing audio of Rightsell’s voice. The brightest source of light came from a chaotically arranged lights in front of two frames that seem like unspeakable characters. Moving on toward the end of the room, the centerpiece then becomes notable. An obelisk which stands erect. It shines light through holes which get gradually smaller. Paint was dripped from the top instead of being brushed off, which leaves an inconsistent but peculiar texture. On the top of the obelisk, the blade of a knife is thrust out from the top. Above the obelisk lays a construction of wood, fastened into an unshapely shelf. From the shelf lays a copper plate which mysteriously conveys the shape of hands. Below the plate lays fixed a portrait of a forest. Lastly, in front of the obelisk a pendulum dangles.
My first thoughts upon entering Rightsell’s exhibition were that of demons, rituals, and death. The atmosphere definitely seems diabolic, as exemplified by the darkness, voices, and the obelisk. However, a closer look seems to show that the exhibition was clearly a representation of Rightsell. The obelisk in the center represents masculinity, standing erect meanwhile honing a sharp edge. The black seems to represent his own ideas which have “tainted him” in accordance to society. However, with the blade he stands true to his own ideals. For the two frame on the side, the cryptic letters further describes who he is. The frames are shut behind the lines of light which trap his darkness. The lights represent society which tries to trap him, lest his ideas influence others around him.
I can see the connection between Rightsell’s societal themes and myself. As we grow, we are told what to do and how to think. As we went to school, our teachers didn’t simply teach us the material needed to know. They also tried to instill in us certain values and qualities acceptable in society meanwhile ironing out the ones that were not. When we associate ourselves with punk culture or the culture of the newer generation, we are looked down upon. When we say that we want to be an artist instead of an engineer or doctor, we get frowned upon. We have pressure applied on to us by our parents, peers, and society. However, we must stay true to ourselves. If we let us be pushed too much, we may be pushed between a rock and a hard place. Some people get jobs because of the pressure they have received, only to hate it. In the end only we truly know what we align with and what we believe in. I also believe that we are held behind many closed doors set by society for which we have to break though to improve ourselves. We can’t live our lives being told what to do. The act of defying expectations in the pursuit of self-revelation is one that will help develop our character. By just jumping through hoops and doing what we’re told, there’s only so much that we can do.