How could anyone be done with Xanax? When the nostalgia bug hits and you can’t avoid compulsively revisiting imagery from a media-soaked 1980s childhood, who doesn’t need even just a little smidgen from a bar to quiet down the blaring romanticism? I know I certainly did while visiting Katherine Bernhardt’s Done with Xanax at Canada Gallery.
The exhibition is filled with large expressionistic portraits of E.T. Yes, that E.T. Our collective wide-eyed alien buddy from Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film who biked his way through our Gen X/older millennial youth, occasionally in drag (The realization of our generation’s rapid aging while viewing the show had me muttering: “Elliott…OUUUUUCH!”). While Bernhardt is no stranger to mining cartoonish pop culture icons such as the Pink Panther and Garfield, surrounding them with cigarettes or watermelons, E.T. holds a particularly cherished spot in the artist’s heart. According to her sister’s corresponding essay, Bernhardt saw the film eighteen times in the theater as a child. That’s dedication.
Depicted in shimmering acrylic and spray paint, Bernhardt contextualizes E.T. amidst the surrealistic, teeth-rotting, mind-altering ruins of late 20th century American culture: Pepsi, Reese’s Pieces (alien approved!), Pac Man and yes, Xanax. I mean, what could be more American than embracing tinfoil hat theories about extraterrestrials, while courting cavities and benzo addictions? I certainly can’t think of anything, so read on for the rest of my GIF review: