How Mad, How Beautiful

Arts / Article

There is a very special world awaiting in the Dorsch Gallery. Fans of artist/performer/magician Clifton Childree will recognize this world immediately, although they might still be blown away by the depth

and creativity of his latest installation, “Orchestrated Gestures.”

There are actually three worlds here, each a moment from the tortured lives of three composers from three countries. Through music, film, and the frame of the arcade game or vaudeville trappings, Childree delivers a powerful, melancholy, and strangely beautiful punch.

In the first world, black-and-white footage of the ragtime great, Scott Joplin, plays out in an arcade booth — except that it’s not Joplin in the celluloid, it’s Childree. The bordello atmosphere is intentional, as we discover that Joplin descended into a madness as syphilis took over his brain. Next door, the end of the life of another so-called “mad king,” Ludwig II of Bavaria, unspools. Except that Ludwig, the creator of the castle that is the inspiration for Disney’s fantasy land, wasn’t mad, just eccentric and effeminate and therefore a person to be vilified. The music here is from Richard Wagner, as we explore the king’s untimely death from drowning.

In the last world, the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin can’t finish his masterpiece, Mysterium; and as a result of his extreme hypochondria, he ends up irritating a small scab so badly he dies from infection.

All of these sets are slightly off, tilting to the sides, unsettled — lives unhinged. Such smart and provocative stuff.

As you walk in, don’t miss the simply delicious, small paintings from the other featured artist, a truly masterful painter, Arnold Mesches. You’ll be tempted to taste them.

“Orchestrated Gestures” by Clifton Childree and “Weather Patterns and Paint” from Arnold Mesches, through Jan. 22 at Dorsch Gallery, 151 N.W. 24th St., Miami; 305-576-1278; www.dorschgallery.com.