Jeff Badger sometimes feels overwhelmed. He reads about art openings on Facebook, and wants to go.
His grass grows quickly, outpacing his ability to keep up with weekly mowings.
His inbox is so full, it seems impossible to wade through the junk.
Welcome to “OK Back OK,” the first solo exhibition by the South Portland artist since 2008.
It opens this week and is on view through Oct. 26 at Rose Contemporary, 492 Congress St., Portland.
The exhibition includes drawings and sculpture, and explores the many anxieties that we all face, and the absurdity of the things that stress us out. As Badger says, “We strive to create this beautiful lawn, and then complain that we have to take care of it. Who said we all have to be grass farmers in the first place? We make this plot of land and we are supposed to take care of it, and then we complain about it.”
The title of the show, “OK Back OK,” refers to the digital interfaces that consume our lives. “OK” and “Back” are two of the most common navigational commands we use on our digital devices. “OK” refers to a level of statis. “Back” means retreat.
Those directions seems to define our lives, he said. “A lot of this work is taking a humorous look at this feeling of struggling to achieve the next step, but never quite getting there,” Badger said.
“To be an American right now, in a global context, is to be a person who is incredibly lucky and privileged. But there seems to be something in our society where we seek out a level of anxiety. We are not prepared to take the next steps in life when they happen. We invent these anxieties that in a larger context don’t really matter,” he said.
He uses the lawn example in his work. “Perfect Lawn Forever” is a wood sculpture that resembles a small cut-out of the perfect lawn — neat, trim and uniform blades of grass, brilliantly green and robust.
“This Could Be the Last Payment You Ever Have to Make” shows a mailbox on a post that almost resembles a question mark, its contents spilling out on the ground below.
Overflowing, the mail box heaves forward with its weight and dumps the bills, notices and junk mail into the wind.
He calls these pieces “visual poems.”
With this exhibition, Badger hopes that people take the time not just to view and analyze the work, but to really think about the things that cause us stress and where they fit in our lives. Badger, who teaches art at Southern Maine Community College, has two young kids, ages 5 years and 4 months.
His children influenced his thinking as he prepared for this exhibition. On one hand, they helped him realize what, or in this case who, was truly important in his life. And on the other, they reinforced how his decisions affect those who are most important and largely powerless.
“Thanks to my kids, I have a new persective,” he said.
In addition to this exhibition at Rose, Badger also will be in a group show in October at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery in Belfast, and another solo show at the Dublin School in New Hampshire, opening in January.
With school starting soon and those shows on the near horizon, Badger will be busy in the weeks and months ahead. So don’t blame him if his grass is little untidy.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or: