Neon Dreamer and American Dreams

Posted on August 2, 2017

My great-grandmother, Mary Gulish, immigrated from Slovakia to Youngstown, Ohio early in the last century. She’d heard some rumors that prospects were better in Cleveland. After first sending her eleven-year-old daughter on a scouting mission, she showed up in Cleveland one day with eleven kids in tow, knowing not a soul and very little English. The family got off the interurban train in a mixed immigrant neighborhood on the West Side and walked up to a random house. Mary knocked on the door. It was answered by a lady who spoke Slovak. The lady took in this stranger and her eleven children (and presumably my great-grandfather, but he’s never made it into any of the versions of this story that I’ve heard). She encouraged Mary to buy a house, advice she followed, eventually housing a rotating cast of generations of relatives and getting the family through the Depression. Hence my obsession with the American Dream.

A few months ago, a young artist from Prague, Edita Pattova, found me on the internet and sent me an email asking if I might have space to host her traveling exhibit. With much of Good Arts Building in flux, I didn’t know where we’d put her but I figured we could come up with something. Edita showed up on my doorstep last week and, while I was lacking in the traditional gigantic plate of cold cuts with which my people traditionally welcome their guests, I did welcome her and her art into my building. Naturally, she turned out to be Slovak. Her mother is from the same region as my mother’s family. It was as if Mary Gulish herself had sent her. As Edita is only traveling and not immigrating, I haven’t badgered her about buying a house yet, but there is still time.

This Thursday, the Good Arts Building welcomes Czech artist Edita Pattova, presenting Neon Dreamer, an interactive painting and video installation, on the first stop of its West Coast tour. Neon Dreamer will be up for one night only, Thursday, August 3, from 5-9 PM in the under-construction Good Arts Arcade at 108 Cherry Street.

Inspired by the neon lights of Times Square on a visit to New York, Edita created a grid of nine oil paintings depicting an imaginary American city. On it, she projects an original video game, inspired by Pac-man, which visitors can play singly or competitively, becoming the dreamers chasing their dreams, beer, money, and each other through the neon-lit painted city streets, while dodging the authorities and other hazards. I intend to play, even though I’m pretty lousy at PacMan. Please stop by if you are out for First Thursday and Seattle Art Fair.

My great-grandmother, Mary Gulish. I come by the pattern thing honestly.

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