Review: Myron Conan Dyal, 'Charon's Pantheon' 

*****
click to enlarge Goddesses in Dyal's 'Charon's Pantheon' - DAN GROSSMAN

As a child, Myron Conan Dyal's fundamentalist Christian parents subjected him to bouts of isolation and crude forms of exorcism in response to his epilepsy. The visions associated with this condition ultimately inspired a body of artwork that would puncture the boundaries of the religion that he was immersed in as a child.

Dyal's exhibit at iMOCA, curated by Matt Kennedy of Los Angeles's La Luz de Jesus Gallery, is grouped into two parts.

The smaller back gallery features a hothouse of colorful acrylic paintings and painted sculpture like "The Guardian of Male Energy," which seems a hybrid humanoid/flowering plant with a keyboard in hand (Dyal is a classically trained pianist). Paintings like "The Guardian," a chimerical humanoid figure with a ruminant-like skull for a head, suggest an animistic spirituality as well as a hermetic symbolism. Dyal's subjects seem to inhabit a netherworld between the living and the dead such as one might find in the rich rot of a tropical forest's floor.

The modus operandi behind Dyal's larger exhibit Charon's Pantheon, which occupies the larger, front gallery, is not diversity, as in the backroom, but unity. The piece collects 13 life-sized, paper mache sculptures in the forms of human - and humanoid - creatures. Six white sculptures and six black sculptures stand on either side of a "Red Shroud" statue, which remains completely veiled. This veil cannot be lifted physically; it's part of the sculpture.

While the "Red Shroud," by its placement, suggests a sort of birth mother from which the other figures spring, its exact symbolism remains hidden and mysterious, though Dyal offers interpretive clues via his poetry, included on the placards that identify each sculpture. Here and there, the figures bear a familiar countenance: the all-white figure of "As Above, So Below" resembles no one so much as the Virgin Mary.

If you've read your Joseph Campbell, you may know that Mary has her corollary in religious traditions more ancient than Christianity. And as you walk from left to right, from white to black, the figures become increasingly bizarre, chimerical, and foreboding - even primeval

While Dyal believes in conflict and dichotomies, he refuses to credit the black and white (and fundamentalist Christian) conception of good and evil. Like the Charon of Greek mythology, ferrying the dead across the River Styx to the afterlife, Dyal is leads past the boundary of art for art's sake toward his more primitive and all-encompassing vision. Through Sept. 15 at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art

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