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If you’ve had enough cut-throat mudslinging this election season, here’s a treat for you. Photographer Rick Ashley’s keen eye and sly humor is on exhibit in “Marblehead’s Horrible Parade (and the kids that love it)” at the Marblehead Arts Association (Marblehead, Massachusetts) through November 13, 2016. A celebration of humanity’s innocent foibles, Ashley’s 10-year retrospective offers a delightfully different perspective on one of this historic town’s best-loved customs. Sponsored by a list of supporters longer than my arm, I can only say that they know a good thing when they see it.
Along the spectrum of humanity, we’ve recently heard Hillary Clinton speak of Trump supporters such as the Klu Klux Klan as a “basket of deplorables”. At the extreme opposite end of the scale are Ashley’s wagons of “Horribles”, the innocent and sometimes clueless children who are dressed up and paraded around each 4th of July in a grand ritual know as the Horribles Parade in the tradition-steeped town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. You’d likely never hear of this event, except that Ashley raised his family in this quaint village and subjected his own children to it for many years. As did I, and many other well-meaning parents. It didn’t take Ashley long to recognize that the hijacked children of Marblehead weren’t particularly pleased. He picked up his camera and has been photographing the Horribles Parade ever since.
A loving skewering of misguided parental good intentions, “Marblehead’s Horrible Parade” allows viewers to empathize with scores of hapless children and to laugh at themselves. Ashley’s nefarious humor is exposed in the methods to his madness. Creating fun-house distortions with the use of wide-angle lenses and angular, off-kilter framing, Ashley magnifies the irony with brightly saturated colors and a hard fill flash for a true paparazzi “gotcha” effect. It works.
If you’re heading north of Boston for the foliage or apple picking, you’ll enhance your trip by venturing into quaint, historic Marblehead for an enlightening view of one of its oldest traditions. Accompanied by kitschy newspaper accounts and vintage B&W pictures that contextualize the Horribles Parade, Ashley’s artful slant on this beloved ritual of patriotism will lift your heart.
For directions, hours and more information about this exhibit, go to: http://www.marbleheadarts.org/exhibits/current-exhibit/
Feature Image: From the series “Marblehead’s Horrible Parade (and the kids that love it)” by Rick Ashley (courtesy of the artist, exhibit sponsors and Gallery Kayafas, Boston).