Connecticut wanderings: RAW cocktails

“Study after Constellations, 1″ by Gail Biederman, from her collection, “You & Me, Together & Apart” as displayed at Real Art Ways, Hartford, Conn.

I was looking for beer, of course, and stumbled upon art.

It was on the walls, on the floor, on screens, in a cabin, and walking around in a state of bliss. I wanted to be art, or at least artistic, but settled on drinking it all in. Including the beer, of course.

My buddy Ray Brown, whom you’ve met before, invited me last night to expand our senses at the Hartford, Conn., art gallery and cinema Real Art Ways, which has a “Creative Cocktail Hour” on every third Thursday of the month. I’d heard about it for years and sworn I’d go, but never had. So we remedied that.

For $10 as a nonmember, you can meander from 6-10 p.m. at the deceptively sprawling industrial-looking space at 56 Arbor St. It’s a full-blown party, and at least on my visit, DJ Mal was spinning a mix of current robot-singer hits with throbbing breaks of anonymous funkitude.

I headed straight to the bar. For $5 I got a pastic cup of Harpoon Brewing’s Summer Ale, which went down like a rock in a wishing well. It was the most “creative” beer available, and with my reputation I could not be rubbing elbows with the elite drinking anything pedestrian. But were they elites? I made my way around to find out.

Works by Ronnie Rysz’s collection, “The Closed Circle.”

Next to the bar was a room for Ronnie Rysz’s modern portrature, under the title, “Closed Circle.” I was entranced. Each one presented at least one person, often times in the stiff, formal pose associated with what I guessed was the 18th century. But since they were close to cartooning — especially with the bright colors and intricate patterns in the background and clothing — it had a very modern feel. Some looked like crime scenes; others looked like nightmares born out of the disinigration of the American family unit myth.

There was food in that room. Charred and delicious garlic bread with hummus dip. I didn’t linger. There was more art.

Making my way through the gallery hall, I just felt this joy. It bloomed from the other guests: they looked so relieved to relax and be themeselves around friends. Some were wrapped in floral dresses, others in strategically ripped jeans, and a few just in t-shirts that weren’t even ironic. I imagined that they were free to laugh and dance and flaunt their sexuality in ways they couldn’t at their day jobs.

I passed some very cool decorated detergent bottles, and saw that they were “totem poles” created by Parkville comminity kids during a RAW Park Art summer program. It continued the theme for me that night: get serious about not taking yourself too seriously and you’ll make a contribution.

Parkville community kid “totem poles,” created as part of RAW’s summer arts program

The next display I’ll breeze through a little bit, because honestly, I didn’t get it. It was called “Skin in the Game” by Dave Sinaguglia. He had some great video and displayed a giant kayak that seemed to be very lightweight yet functional. He had a few childish drawings and an actual cabin that fit four uncomfortably erected in one room. The theme was all about “being a manly man” but it came off as silly or mocking. Maybe I need another trip to the cabin, where people were swigging back spirits from a bottle kept there (it might have been apple juice for all I know, because I stuck to beer).

Brad Guarino furthered the focus on what it means to be a man with his, “What Manner of Men?” collection, which were paintings of men in surrealistic circumstances. They hiked, crawled, swept, and looked bewildered. The acrylics were fascinating because none of the faces were generic: you could see the model in each one and I wanted to see more of his work.

The last piece I’ll give a remark about was Gail Biederman’s piece “Study after Constellations 1,” a thread on mylar piece that took up two walls of a room. The pattern appeared hodgepodge at first. It’s not the kind of installation that works if you poke your head in and say, “Meh,” however. Once I “lived in it” for a while, I started to get it. If they were connected stars brought down to earth, who was I to question?

After I controlled myself by not bothering my favorite NPR radio journalists — host Colin McEnroe and producer Chion Wolf — I watched the people dance erratically some more. Ray and I called it a night eventually, otherwise I’d still be there, I guess.

There’s a RAW bar I can sink my teeth into.

The next Creative Cocktail Hour is scheduled for Sept. 20. Real Art Ways has all kinds of other events, too, so check them out.

Until next time, sip well.

Post soundtrack: “Fear Fun” by Father John Misty

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