Temporary Page for exhibition - "Unreliable Narrator" -
new paintings by Ward Shelley at Pierogi Gallery
February 17 - March 17, 2012

larger resolution jpegs will be available.
Read the artist's notes for this show.




  House Divided, V.1
75.5" X 36"
Bohemian Tree
24" X 16"
  People of the Book, V.1
57" X 28.5"
  History of Science Fiction, V.1
54" X 28"
  Teenagers, V.1
61" X 34.5"

  Extra Lrge Fluxus Diagram, V.1
74" X 35"


  Just Causes, V.1
47" X 29.5"

Artist's Notes - Ward Shelley

Unreliable Narrator is about Believers.

This exhibition proposes that Believers are people who depend on a collection of narratives to explain the world around them.

These narratives are stories that weave together a series of facts (or assertions) so they make sense. Narratives create what is true for the believer, which is more germane to the believer's life than facts.

Facts are like dots on a graph. The narrative is the curve that connects them, that gives isolated data points meaning, and gives meaning shape. Obviously, this particular graphical metaphor for a theory of epistemology emerges naturally from the way I have come to create timelines, which I consider pictures of narratives.

As actors in the world, we need a world view, and a world view requires some construction. Narratives are what we construct - they are the basic building blocks for organizing our outlook and interpreting the world. For a narrative to be useful, you have to commit to it, you have to believe. Apprehension is a leap of faith and, until our misplaced trust becomes lethal, our reaction to the world is shaped more by belief than by fact.

We are all believers; it seems there is no way around it. But the voice in our head is that of an unreliable narrator.

Believers are often clustered with others that share their convictions. The work in this exhibition samples a variety of ways beliefs manifest. Inevitably, we must look at religion and politics, so the inclusion of work about two of the world's great religions seemed appropriate and necessary. Likewise, patriotism must go under the glass, and we examine the rationale for American wars.

Beliefs form groups in less obvious ways. The concept of teenagers as a distinct category of human beings didn't really exist until very modern times (the word itself was coined after World War II), but has become an article of faith. Catalyzed by this distinction, teens themselves created a fascinating array of creeds which we chart in "Teenagers".



The relationship of science fiction to belief is ambiguous but in some way essential. Science fiction deals with improbable possibilities. It has that in common with religion and patriotism, except SF is much more candid about it.

And Fluxus. I would claim that Fluxus was the last true avant garde movement, an incarnation of radical idealism. And so it must be included.

Why am I showing half my paintings naked, stripped of words? Because I want to see the structure of narrative as well as tell the story. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.

My diagrammatic pieces deliver lots of information, as is immediately obvious by the amount of words they contain. I try to convey a strong narrative supported by a wealth of detail. Words are like magnets for the eyes and, in my drawings, they crowd to the front of the viewer's attention and tell the story. Beneath is a structure - and this structure is also information, as well as informational architecture. Is there a necessary structure to narrative? Intuition suggests that there is.

There are linguistic fundamentals common in language. Are there in communicative graphics? Is it possible that legible graphics like mine, which utilize very conventional forms, rely on some pre-existing structure for thought, a pre-existing structure not unlike the innate cognitive structures in the brain that linguists believe precede and make possible language ?

In this exhibition I ask if the shapes of information carry messages. All parts of the abstractions correspond to structured information. But we use different parts of our brain for reading and looking. Stripped of the textual references that shaped them, do they still snake their way down to resonate in that part of the brain where meaningfulness percolates?

In other words, would you believe that? Are you a Believer? In this show, I try to have it both ways.

Ward Shelley, 2012