Who in their right mind would base the theme of an entire art exhibition on a single color?! Not a special color either. Not taupe, or mauve, or chartreuse, or any other color with a “u” in it. No, the name of this exhibition was simply, GREEN. The color and even the word can have very different meanings depending on who you ask, or even the day, and as a result there’s always the risk that the message might become diluted. On the other hand, such a broad concept leaves room for all voices, and for the Brickbottom Artists Association, a collection of artists all working in different media, this was the perfect choice.
While my personal taste typically favors more abstract pieces, I found I particularly enjoyed Still Afternoon by Matrian Dioguardi. The painting depicts a cluster of homes in what might be the American Southwest or Mexico. Despite hints of life (clothesline, live flowers on the windowsill), there are no people to be found. What might otherwise feel lonely instead feels tranquil. Having spent time in Texas and New Mexico I can speak to the idea that under the big open sky surrounded by nothing, the feelings of being small and feeling insignificant are not mutually exclusive. A shadow cast across the building tells me it’s sometime around noon, and brings about the idea of siesta town at rest. Here, green is not a featured color, but the idea of green is present: the green of possibility, as if the town could begin to stir at any moment, vibrant and alive.
An artist that took a different approach was Karen Dirkse in her work Barn Fresh Produce, Moss Landing, CA. I understood green here as it relates to the earth, notably with a frame made from recycled paper. It also features an otter holding what looks to be an artichoke (also green). The picture appears to be the back room in a shop (Barn Fresh Produce looks to be a farmers market). While cleanly, the door is covered in signatures and graffiti, giving it a loose, dirty quality, almost like the bathroom in a dive bar (I say that in the most endearing way possible). Looking at the photo, my mind goes to those small yet vital coastal towns, and the soggy, green landscape there, and what it means for places like that if we don’t look after our environment.
One of the more literal examples of the theme is — wait for it — My Favorite Green by Paula Marie Countouris & Emile Freeman. The work is a photograph, though it’s clear there’s been some digital manipulation involved with the production. The focal point of the work is a woman dressed in green, sitting on a green couch, adjacent to a jade plant on top of a green dresser. There are even more green elements littered throughout the room. The woman appears transcendent somehow, with draped robes and green halo like some emerald saint. At the same time, I can’t help but think of the Statue of Liberty, making the piece feel that much more surreal. I appreciate the playfulness of the photo, and the fact that it left me with more questions than answers.
The gallery puts on three BAA member shows per year and exists as wonderful place to expose yourself to a diverse range of arts and artists. I recommend keeping an eye out for open studio dates when you can fully immerse yourself, and in some cases have the opportunity to do a deep dive on any particular artists or styles that you enjoyed.
The Brickbottom Artists Association and gallery are located at 1 Fitchburg Street, Somerville, MA. With hours Thursday – Saturday 12-5 PM with ample street parking. More information can be found on their website.