May 10, 2014
Text Written By Maria Napolitano
Nestled in the Boston Society of Architects’ lobby, the Atlantic Wharf’s Waterfront Square Gallery’s new show fills a liminal space with an examination of the past. A gallery that is, in effect, the waiting area between the building’s elevator and back entrance seems doomed to be passed over but the space suits this show as viewers pass in and out of focus like the memories the show engages. Composed of works by nineteen members of the Fort Point Arts Community, Nostalgia takes on the many different permutations of the title notion. Some works probe the classic scenes that evoke a longing for a fairy-tale past, while others tangle with the pain of a long-lost love, and more still struggle with the concept of spaces changed in a viewer’s absence or the internal shifts that also accompany time’s steady march out of the past and towards the future with little regard for the here and now.
As with all shared exhibits, paying each work and each artist due respect is an impossible task. But within the themes I found in the show some pieces stood out more than others. In the realm of past but not forgotten loves, Adrienne Schlow’s Hardly Never grabs the viewers’ attention as they idly await the elevator. A bright piece of scrawled pop art; it is littered with images of women that, upon closer examination, prove to be variations on one theme, one woman. The scribbled text “I never even think of her anymore hardly” hovers above the chaos of faces and features an amalgam of true and blurred memories. The content of the piece stands at odds with the excited pastel palette and bold make-up enhancing the many iterations of Her face across the canvas.
Claudia Ravaschiere takes a more reserved approach to the end of romance. In her smaller, subdued Stay nine silver, painted circles hang in a 3×3 grid to display abandoned, crumpled, and stacked pillows. The viewer stares at the inanimate objects and is forced to wonder, who, exactly, is being asked to stay? Why? Where have they gone, and how long ago (if they did) ignore the title’s request? Some of the rumpled pillows are bound with rope, and some are paired. Why are some tied together, and some left alone in their rumpled state? Without a human image, bed, any setting at all, or even context beyond the title word, the dejected pillows tug at each individual viewer’s memories of lonely pillows and their uses of the word “stay”. The piece draws on each viewer’s past to create a uniquely powerful work for every unique set of eyes.
Laura Davidson pulls antique objects and ancient images together in multimedia works that cohere within small frames. Memoranda and Morning Music feel archaic, reminiscent of opening a treasure chest of knickknacks in a dusty attic. Scratched keys, scores of iridescent buttons, fragments of a violin, and the images of classical sculptures are assembled like jigsaw puzzle pieces in a shadow box, a set of keepsakes or a time capsule exposed to the public eye. These intensely personal and specific images oppose the photographs Daniel J. van Ackere captures. Remembrance and Summer Porch are beautiful and familiar images, blurred, and resonant for so many viewers. With foggy snapshots of idyllic summers and melancholy wilderness, van Ackere plays to the binding ties that such common hazy memories create. The longing for softened years past and eras smoothed over by the passage of time connects the viewers of his photographs, via a sense of déjà vu dependent on his images striking a chord deep within each of them. Leslie A. Feagley’s images are also familiar ones but show the effects of time on real locations while memories remain static. Dilapidated road signs, billboards, and abandoned road trips resonate with the viewers familiar with the loss of a physical memorial to a cherished memory.
The final pieces that, to me, examined an important facet of Nostalgia were gems by Jessica Burko. Journaling 24 Hours and Journaling on Identity are a pair of intense self-examinations, collaged similarly to Davidson’s frames. Each features handwritten journal entries, photographs of an unknown hand examining the journal, and souvenir-like faded wallpaper but is completed with a black and white snapshot of what the viewer must assume is the subject, tacked over these print images. Journaling 24 Hours is about a rambling concern that there are not enough hours in the day, only twenty four! The issue of “how is it possible to accomplish all the many tasks that need to get done…when can I spend some time just thinking…?” becomes a thematic plight for the writer. The same voice wonders, in Journaling on Identity, “What is an identity when an identity is constantly changing?” In a frank but frantic exploration, the writer struggles to place herself in the present and the past simultaneously, juxtaposing her desire to
carpe diem while acknowledging the washed-out wall paper and time-worn photographs that brought her through the past to the overbearing present. The viewer takes on a voyeuristic role by gaining access to the writer’s private musings and fears. However, when confronted with such universal questions such as the structure and source of identity, and the ephemeral nature of each day filled with both mundane chores and a conflicting desire to enjoy the fleeting present, the viewer overwhelmed with the existential dread Burko layers into these pieces. An unconventional approach to nostalgia, where the present is still very much acknowledged, and even overshadows the past, lends strength to the pieces of the past still included in the work.
Twisted memory, shifted loves, fluid identities, and inexorable change: nostalgia takes on many forms throughout the Atlantic Wharf’s Waterfront Square Gallery’s show, as it does for everyone familiar with the “sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” In an age obsessed with documenting and sharing the present while planning for the future, nostalgia can strike in unexpected moments and with great force. The Fort Point Artists Community excels in capturing the nuances of this heavy sentiment in its many variations, and has assembled a powerful exhibit ready to catch the eyes and hearts of visitors to the BSA as they pass through the gallery.
GET THERE: Take the Red Line to South Station.
SEE IT: On view through July 6th.
MORE INFO: http://www.atlanticwharfboston.com/awb/index.html