Kirk Hayes' "Protective Covering Smoldering" at Conduit Gallery

It's literally the elephant in the room.

Only in Kirk Hayes' "Protective Covering Smoldering," someone is trying to cover him up. Desperately.

But they're doing a terrible job of it. Terrible.

The pink blanket silhouettes what is clearly an elephant. Except, it's not just an elephant. It's also some sort of device with an electrical cord, a tube of red paint, a knife, and a plethora of other items.

And the cloth "covering" him is marked with tape, tied to eyes screwed into the floor with strings straining to hold it down, and smoldering, still, after being set aflame.

The background is a sky blue with clouds and the floor is wooden boards and the figure, the elephant, is all stillness. You imagine him like an ostrich thinking, "I can't see anyone so no one can see me." But we can see him. And he's made all the more obvious by the cloth and the straining and the taping and the smoldering.

It's an elephant under a cloth. But it's really everything.

Everything we try to hide, to brush under the rug, to keep under wraps. And the more we push it aside and cover it up, the more apparent it becomes.

And the more damaged it becomes as well. With that damage, comes the greater chance for discovery until the elephant or the addiction or the affair or whatever it is we're pushing down and aside and away becomes more than just apparent, it becomes all we can see.

Hayes' "Protective Covering Smoldering" is not a painting of an elephant. It's a painting of our elephant, whatever it might be. It's a cautionary tale. It's a cute, cartoony version of it (a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down and all of that) but it's a warning still.

Acknowledge the elephant. He can only smolder for so long. After that, he'll burn.

See "Protective Covering Smoldering" and more of Kirk Hayes' work at Conduit Gallery through October 8th.

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