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Grey Expectations

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­Harrison Center for the Arts is embracing a couple of socialites and their eccentric lifestyle this year with its color-themed holiday show.

For more than 12 years, the center's annual holiday exhibition has had a signature hue. It's been through Blue Christmas, Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String and Nottingham Forest: the Hanging of the Green.

Sean Hoisington, We All March Together, photography
  • Sean Hoisington, We All March Together, photography

With this year's color, though, its staff is going a step further. Curator Kyle Ragsdale, an artist who will have work in the exhibition, got inspiration from the 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens, about Jacqueline Kennedy's aunt and first cousin: Edith Bouvier Beale, known as "Little Edie," and her mother, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, known as "Big Edie."

More than 50 artists will participate, displaying 100-plus works to interpret the "Grey Gardens" theme. The exhibit, which opens Dec. 6 as part of IDADA's First Friday, runs through Dec. 27. It is expected to draw at least 1,200 visitors, according to Pam Allee, arts coordinator.

Since its release, the Grey Gardens documentary has been turned into a musical, an HBO feature film and more. It recounts the bizarre, secret life of the Beales, who lived in squalor and on a limited budget in wealthy East Hampton, New York.

"I love it," says Allee. "I guess we all have family history that would surprise people. When we think about the Kennedys, we don't think about their relatives living in a run-down house with cats and raccoons and eating pate out of little tin cans."

But, what connects such a theme to the celebratory holiday season? More than you might think, we learned when we asked Ragsdale a few questions:

What made you think of grey as a theme?

Kyle: I feel like grey is a hot color right now in design, we love the movie and there has been a lot of pop culture (discussions of) Grey Gardens in the last few years.

Really, grey is hot?

Kyle: Grey, in the last few years, has become a really popular color in interior design and fashion. People who used to have bright houses are painting rooms grey.

How does Grey Gardens relate to the holidays?

Kyle: I feel like Little Edie is such a resilient character. If anything, that relates to the holidays. She is still resilient and celebratory in the midst of squalor. She is still dressing up and dancing around even though things are not going her way.



What inspired you about Grey Gardens?

Kyle: It is kind of like watching an episode of Hoarders. How do people do that and how to do they get there? I feel like Little Edie is a really interesting character. Even in her mental illness she thinks there still might be something good around the corner.

What would you say to someone who says this is a depressing theme for a holiday show?

Kyle: I would (point to) the resilience of Little Edie. It's kind of the idea of the holidays to find joy in the midst of hard times, you know.

What types of art will be in the show?

Kyle: This is one of the shows where we try to include a lot of different people and a lot of different kinds of work. There will be work from children doing craft-related things and videos and installations (among other pieces).

Ashley A. Judd, The Squid & The Whale, pen & ink pointillism
  • Ashley A. Judd, The Squid & The Whale, pen & ink pointillism

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