Photographer Julie Blackmon turns reality on its head in new exhibition.

"Costco" by Julie Blackmon.
Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

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"Costco" by Julie Blackmon. Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

A deliciously feral and free-range cast of children rule the roost in Blackmon’s delightfully dark photographs.

It’s hard to get a feel for just how wacky artist Julie Blackmon’s photographs are without seeing them in person.

For Blackmon it’s all in the layered, loopy details that ping like electrified atoms around her action-packed photographs centered on little children run amok in her solo exhibition at Jackson Fine Art “Metaverse.”

The featured players in her images are shirtless waifs with uncombed hair and sugar-dazed expressions. Her virtually feral children are long-limbed Norman Rockwell scamps but with some “Lord of the Flies” energy threatening to tip over from Americana into anarchy.

In “Fixer Upper,” rolls of sod and Lowe’s boxes litter the front lawn as a cadre of young children appear to give the HGTV treatment to a grime-smeared colonial.

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The solo exhibition "Julie Blackmon: Metaverse" at Jackson Fine Art features work by the Missouri-based photographer including "Metaverse" (2022). Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

The solo exhibition "Julie Blackmon: Metaverse" at Jackson Fine Art features work by the Missouri-based photographer including "Metaverse" (2022).
Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Combined ShapeCaption
The solo exhibition "Julie Blackmon: Metaverse" at Jackson Fine Art features work by the Missouri-based photographer including "Metaverse" (2022). Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Credit: Julie Blackmon

There’s not an adult in sight in “Metaverse,” just unsupervised waifs bounding over hills, turning the garage into a roller skating rink, hanging out of windows and running like hellions through the streets. They are a flurry of manic, at times mysterious, action. What kind of party are they planning with those institutional-sized bottles of ranch dressing? Who thought leaving two toddlers unattended and strapped into their stroller on the front lawn was a good idea? It’s Lydia Millet’s apocalyptic “The Children’s Bible” meets Pippi Longstocking. Chaos lurks at the margins of the images, as in “Ezra” where a cockatoo perches on a doorframe and a spilled jar of bird seed provide evidence of an allowance-denying crime scene presided over by a pretty little girl in knee socks and a wild mop of hair.

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"Ezra" by Julie Blackmon. Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

"Ezra" by Julie Blackmon.
Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Combined ShapeCaption
"Ezra" by Julie Blackmon. Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Blackmon’s settings drip with heaping helpings of cinematic set dressing that cause the human mind to meander and create yarns of its own, as in “Afghan” where a little boy in a mustard yellow cardigan presses his body against the screen door while two preteen blonds inside loll with daydreamy disregard on an afghan-draped couch. The domestic interiors tend to be a little grimy and disheveled as if the kids themselves were responsible for upkeep.

Blackmon’s images are often joyous and silly, a celebration of the off-the-leash imagination of children well-matched to the technologically free-range flights of fancy offered a photographer in the age of Photoshop.

Blackmon’s touchstone in “Metaverse” is the chaotic image bank of our internet age. Look closely at her images and you can see McDonald’s Happy Meals and Ikea boxes dotting the landscape like pop-up ads. Instead of the religious iconography and totems of mortality that define classical oil painting we have Slinkies and Starbucks. Products are our cultural touchstones.

“Costco” is a particularly fanciful mini-adventure story, in that metaverse mode, of childhood enterprise. Here, children are the hyper-efficient consumers, shown in the photograph’s foreground loading up a van with a jumbo loaf of hamburger, Cheez-Its, cases of vodka and a bag of Doritos as big as the child holding it. Visible in shadows cast onto the Costco wall behind them is a whole caravan of other children with bundles on their heads ferrying in more supplies. Is it the end of the world and the hoarding has begun, or just a delightful shopping spree?

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"Concert" (2010) by Julie Blackmon. Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

"Concert" (2010) by Julie Blackmon.
Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Combined ShapeCaption
"Concert" (2010) by Julie Blackmon. Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Credit: Julie Blackmon

Blackmon draws her cast of characters from her own Springfield, Missouri, town and the inspiration of myriad stories unfolding beneath a veneer of placid small-town life.

In a nutty tipped hat to art history, Blackmon takes her inspiration for these scenes from 17th century Dutch oil paintings of tavern scenes where revelry is the order of the day: musicians jam, ladies flirt, card games are underway, glasses of stout are lifted to lips and frightened whippets hunker in a corner.

But these kids don’t need a foamy ale for the insanity to ensue: a kite, a swimming hole, a Polaroid camera will do and the ensuing melee is just as fun to watch. There’s no denying Blackmon’s seductive rendition of childhood freedom and exploration.


ART REVIEW

“Julie Blackmon: Metaverse”

Through July 23. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, and by appointment. Free. Jackson Fine Art, 3115 East Shadowlawn Ave., Atlanta. 404-233-3739, jacksonfineart.com.

Bottom line: The anarchy of childhood meets the free-range possibilities of digital photography in Missouri photographer Julie Blackmon’s giddy, delightful rendition of childhood.