Corey Grayhorse brings tremendous felicity to photography with her exhibition “Artificial Memories” at dnj Gallery. She presents generally eccentric and mildly zany photographs which, while having an autobiographical subtext, can stand alone as cheerful gum drops of contemporary life. It is striking that she is able to take such profane settings such as a McDonald’s and imbue it with a luscious excitement for life.
Corey Grayhorse, New Faces. Same Places, Artificial Memories, 2016, Archival pigment print, 48″x32″ 

How is New Faces. Same Places. such a representation of life-affirmation? What may appear to be a mundane portraiture, even a mistaken employee group photo, demonstrates a positive orientation onto what is prima facie absurd. What, on Earth, is the reason a group of Korean ladies surround Ronald McDonald? And why are there two randomly placed white girls? There perhaps is no explanation whatsoever! And yet, cannot the human mind accept an otherwise inconceivable reality and see its unique albeit bizarre harmony of life and appreciate its beauty?

In a scientifically advanced age, where everything is open to methodological scrutiny, there is a skepticism of intentions which may not produce anything rational. And yet, like in New Faces. Same Places. and the rest of the artworks which offer a constant theme of childish playfulness and nostalgia, Ms. Grayhorse best demonstrates the profound debilitation in assuming everything can be explainable. It is precisely that there is forever a mysteriousness to human existence which has birthed mystical reverence of nature and its wonder. And yet, Ms. Grayhorse is able to take human industrial artifacts of “Americana” and reveal to us the same conclusion from the eons of ancient traditions.
Corey Grayhorse, Roberta and Grace II, 2016, Archival Pigment Print, 48″x32″

It is precisely that her work can be judged intuitively distasteful because of the ostensible lack of artistic mastery or profound sensation of sacredness that it is required to be confronted. The ostensible confusion it can present to the laymen because of the preconceived assumptions of what art ought to be – lucidly beautiful, i.e. enchanting – can help clear the mental cobwebs which have been accumulating since science has become the master and commander of society; and with it, again, this suspicion of any hint of the unintelligible. Transcendence, borrowing from William James, is unseen order – and if the order of nature cannot be appreciated on such a perfunctory level as Chuck E Cheese, if goodness cannot be seen with the loving nature of stuffed animal prized collections, where ought it be found? Why, in other words, is there the presupposition that transcendence is found outside of man’s creative order and not within it?

Clearly, there is a bit of Christian morality which remains that clouds the seer’s vision of goodness; of a worthwhile interpretation of human life as an absurdist comedy, which necessarily reveals transcendence within its historical machinations. That evil is also found within this same absurdity is a worthy counterpoint; yet good art does not have us dwell on this unfortunate aspect of the freedom to choose. Good art chooses for us! And in doing so, with elevating our notion of kindness, it can help us better appreciate the divine consummation of a Happy Meal.

“Artificial Memories” runs through December 2, 2018. dnj Gallery is located at 3015 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405. See for more info.

This review has been previously published on adilettante. To find out more about Joseph A Hazani, his website and read more of his reviews, visit