Last year's inaugural "Dark Love" show, featuring art with a twisted take on love coinciding with Valentine's Day, was a triumph. Despite a massive snowstorm blowing through the night of the event, hundreds attended. While there are a couple changes to this year's "Dark Love"- most notably assigning a "Fables and Foibles" theme, but also moving from 400 West Rich to The Vanderelli Room - organizers are confident 2014's success will be replicated.

Last year’s inaugural “Dark Love” show, featuring art with a twisted take on love coinciding with Valentine’s Day, was a triumph. Despite a massive snowstorm blowing through the night of the event, hundreds attended. While there are a couple changes to this year’s “Dark Love”— most notably assigning a “Fables and Foibles” theme, but also moving from 400 West Rich to The Vanderelli Room — organizers are confident 2014’s success will be replicated.

“It was magic, and we’re hoping to recreate that. We expect that, though. We’ve been doing really well and Franklinton Fridays [the monthly art event in the neighborhood during which ‘Dark Love 2’ takes place] are really taking off. People know just to come down here — even if they don’t know what’s happening,” said curator Tona Pearson during an interview at The Vanderelli Room.

The main reason “Dark Love 2: Fables and Foibles” is poised for another venerable event is the roster of artists participating in the now-annual group show. Pearson and assistant organizer W. Ralph Walters (who co-curated last year with Pearson) have a vast network they turn to for curatorial undertakings, but this year’s “Dark Love” is augmented by a new community of artists connected to Alicia “A.J.” Vanderelli, manager of The Vanderelli Room.

“We have so many years of running big events, little events, coffee shop [events] and festivals that we have thousands of artists we can pull from. Some of them are really amazing, and we just picked the cream of the crop,” Pearson said. “We came up with a list of artists who could represent the theme well. A.J. has different connections because of the gallery, so she’s invited people [outside] my circle. The more networking we do, the better the shows will be.”

Approaching the fables and foibles theme, which looked for dark interpretations of myths, fairy tales and legends, or representations of humanity’s inherent flaws, “Dark Love 2” is epitomized by hauntingly evocative works. That includes somber and/or sinister interpretations of Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin and The Little Mermaid, or renderings of failure, regret and loss. The work highlights the tragedy and tribulations in both fairy tales and real life that are often forgotten, or pushed to the wayside in lieu of (unrealistic) happy endings.

“This time around, especially since the ‘Dark Love’ show has a reputation to be more twisted, emotional, we gave people the chance to do darker representations,” Pearson said. “We tried to leave it a little loose too, with the foibles [component]. It’s not just fairy tales, so people have more to play with. But we did [tell] the artists: no glitter and no fairies.”

Pearson also cited the annual “Fear Hundred” Halloween-themed show as a reference point for “Dark Love.” It’s not only because Pearson and Walters are integral coordinators for both, but also because both shows ask the participating artists to delve into the bizarre, fantastic and even distressing recesses of their mind. Fittingly, Pearson’s “Sleeping with Prince Valium” encapsulates both the fable and foible components.

“It’s based on ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ but instead of it being someone who goes to sleep because of a spell, I have the atomic structure of valium [in the background] and it represents drug abuse as a foible,” Pearson said.

“Dark Love” has a number of approaches in transforming these well-known stories into wholly fresh variations, running the gamut of sensual (Ralph Corriveau’s Red Riding Hood photographs) to vibrant and playful (Donna Estep’s “Snow White”), and even slightly disturbing in Aaron Thompson’s wonderfully gripping “Faun” piece.

Mary Barczak’s fairy tale-themed photography series, which she created previously and will revisit later this year, is an example of the delightfully twisted approach. The use of a minimalist setting draws the focus to the weird and whimsical Rumpelstiltskin paper mask in the image.

While the art of “Dark Love” may center on the bleaker aspects of fairy tales and/or humanity, the event itself is more about celebrating Columbus’ creative community and starting a conversation about the art.

“All of the artists are present most of the time too. So you can talk with them and see what they did. I think people really care about interacting with the artist and that makes the events and art shows here more accessible,” Pearson said.

Photos by Meghan Ralston