Dread & Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World

  • Aug 25, 2018 – Dec 9, 2018
  • The Bob & Lissa Shelley McDowell Gallery
Ana Teresa Fernández, Still from studio performance of “The Ice
Queen,” 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San
Francisco © Ana Teresa Fernández, photo courtesy of Gallery Wendi
Norris, San Francisco.

This fall the Weatherspoon Art Museum premieres Dread & Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World, an exhibition that brings together the work of contemporary artists who use classical fairy tales to address the complexities of our lives today. While some embrace the stories’ promises of transformation and happy endings, others plumb the stories’ more troubling elements—poverty, addiction, and exploitations of power.

No matter their approach, each of the artists dismantles and reassembles the tales in imaginative ways. In a 1980s arcade-like video by Ericka Beckman, the story of Cinderella becomes a means to talk about women’s proscribed social roles; in Timothy Horn’s nearly life-size carriage made of crystallized candy, it becomes an opportunity to address queer identity and notions of the so called rags-to-riches American dream. In Alison Saar’s tar and gold-leaf covered sculpture Blonde Dreams, the story of Rapunzel becomes an avenue for reconsidering racial constructions of beauty; in MK Guth’s 1800-foot-long braid Ties of Protection and Safe Keeping, it becomes the site for a conversation about values and desires.

Many of the fairy tales featured in Dread and Delight will be readily familiar. Others are lesser known and provide an opportunity to explore the rich breadth of the fairy tale tradition. Throughout the exhibition, one finds that the artists have engaged with fairy tales across time—from early Italian, French, and German anthologies; to Walt Disney’s 20th-century animations; to postmodern retellings by authors such Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Collectively they remind us that fairy tales have never been merely children’s tales. Rather, these age-old stories of wonder are powerful tools for making sense of life’s stark—and often dark—realities.  

Dread & Delight will be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue charting five decades of fairy tales in the visual arts. The publication will also feature a new work of fairy tale fiction by UNC Greensboro alumna and Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link. 

The exhibition and catalogue have been generously supported by Seymour and Carol Cole Levin; the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; Furthermore, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund; and UNC Greensboro’s Office of the Provost; and Tim Warmath and Ed Comber.

Artists in the exhibition:

Ghada Amer | John Baldessari | Ericka Beckman | Nayland Blake | Ellen Cantor | Ana Teresa Fernández | Natalie Frank | Anna Gaskell | MK Guth | Arturo Herrera | David Hockney | Timothy Horn | Kerry James Marshall | Tom Otterness | Alison Saar | Cindy Sherman | Xaviera Simmons | Kiki Smith | Carrie Mae Weems | Miwa Yanagi | Gil Yefman

This exhibition contains mature content. 

Visitors with children may wish to preview the artworks.

Images will be available at the museum front desk.

Dread & Delight is organized by the Weatherspoon Art Museum and curated by Dr. Emily Stamey, Weatherspoon Curator of Exhibitions.

After its Greensboro debut, Dread & Delight will travel to the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College in Iowa and the Akron Art Museum in Ohio.

Related Program:

We have six galleries located on the first and second levels of the museum, view our gallery map.