“The show is full of vintage and retro type folks, and every one of them is looking at their phone,” the artist Paul Cordes Wilm wrote in an email. “A bit of a ‘societal mirror,’ I guess.”
The show in question, The Phone Age, was mounted Tuesday, Dec. 1, at Homewood’s Oak and Raleigh Neighborhood Deli and Bar and will be on display through December. With Wilm’s bent toward bright primary colors and cheeky cast of characters, it may surprise some viewers that the paintings are tinged with a sense of doom. Each piece can stand alone, like a single cautionary tale, but the effect of the exhibition as a whole is arresting — an omnibus of Dick Tracy and Marilyn Monroe-esque figures with their ideas, imaginations and relationships replaced with a cell phone. Children gaze in awe at the cold device in their hand; lovers halt their hike to snap a selfie, completely missing the grandeur of the mountain backdrop in front of them.
The artwork asks the viewer, “What will our generation be remembered for? What will our ancestors think of us? Are we replacing our potential for greatness with Instagram posts?” Images captured on a camera phone may be beautiful; they may serve as time capsules and intimate glimpses into daily life in 2015, but is the amateur photographer and social media maven missing the beauty that already exists all around?
It is clear that Wilm, who works part time for Weld, takes great care in curating his ideas. His nod to Shakespeare, the “societal mirror” mentioned earlier, reveals this practice and shows that Wilm is indeed an artist in action. As Hamlet advised his troupe of actors, “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this/special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature:/for any thing so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose/end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere the/mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own/image, and the very age and body of the time his form and/pressure.”
Oak and Raleigh is located at 705 Oak Grove Road in Homewood. The exhibit will be on display all month Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit oakandraleigh.com and paulcordeswilm.com.