A few pages into Tender is the Night a young ingénue is laid out, “on the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about halfway between Marseilles and the Italian border.” It is a crisp, indelible image of ideal summer. A few other American ex-pats spot her alone on the beach and engage her. “We thought maybe you were in the plot,” says a woman described as “a shabby-eyed, pretty young woman with a disheartening intensity.” She continues, “We don’t know who’s in the plot and who isn’t.”
With this running joke, Fitzgerald deftly exposes the anxious social machinery humming just below the surface of this sleepy resort town. Or, to be more accurate, the complicated way that the beauty and attractive ease of this scene are inextricably tied to it’s own insecurity and incestuous decay.
As our summer exhibition, Rowley Kennerk Gallery has collected the work of a few disparate artists who share a distinctly complex or complicated visual vocabulary. Like that girl on the beach, their work is hard to pin down – to determine it’s place. Like that pleasant shore, there is difficulty built into the work’s appeal. And like Fitzgerald’s writing, their artwork must be more than any one thing, at any one time.
A paragraph later, the woman’s husband scolds her, “get a new joke, for God’s sake!”