I was delighted to visit the Nave Gallery in Somerville to check out their latest exhibition AVATARS// ghosts (on view March 22-April 13). This was a very curious gallery, filled with unique takes on the subject of an avatar. In the digital age, we think of an avatar as a constructed vessel for us to act out our personalities online, but there is a more ancient definition as well. The Hindu meaning of the word means a deity or soul incarnate, sent to earth to teach and aid mortals. This theme was examined from many different perspectives and from many different hands.
The show began in San Francisco, where the curators selected several works from anther exhibition, which later became the seed for our show in Boston. There were also pieces that the curators procured from local artists, as well as a local open call. This led to a deeply intricate and diverse show, with many varying perspectives on the same topic. The curators did a brilliant job sewing all of these different voices together to create a dynamic conversation between pieces throughout the gallery. There were far too many unique wonders to cover them all in the article, but here are a few stand-outs:
The first piece that caught my attention was Dear Ester by Guiliana Funkhouser, one of the show’s curators who is currently studying in San Francisco. Dear Ester refers to the profound sensuality of creating a work of art with your hands. Displayed is an embossed sheet of paper mounted on velvet featuring a hand touching velvet, creating an impression of a ghost or apparition. Below is a jar filled with a perfume soaked swathe of velvet, the same velvet used in the embossing. This perfume was specially crafted for the artist to imitate the smell of calligraphy ink. She wore it to remind her of the process of crafting with her hands when she began to work as a digital designer, as what she missed most was the tactile sensation of creating art.
The second work to catch my eye were a collection of strange dolls made by Caleb Cole, an artist who collects antique baby dolls and modifies them into self-portraits. Whether you find them whimsical or unsettling, they are undeniably impressive. Each doll is intended to resemble Cole on the day it was made, so each is different and uniquely expressive. This exhibit showcased a small collection of less than twenty, but the artist has been collecting and creating these dolls for some time now, and what is on display is only part of a much larger collection.
There were many strange wonders in this exhibition, from a looking glass showing a surrealist tight ropewalker to animal bone oracles. I will never forget some of the pieces in the exhibition, and I’m very glad I got a chance to check it out. AVATARS// ghosts is the first of a two-part exhibition series. The next exhibition at Nave Gallery, AVATARS// futures, will open April 26th.