Love. L-O-V-E. It’s well tread ground for artists. So much so that it’s been a cliche’d topic for as long as I can remember. It’s been relegated to open mics, acoustic guitars, pop movies and intro to painting classes because it’s a rarity that the topic is given serious consideration. “Our Sweet, Secret Language” currently showing at Nomadic Gallery in Allston attempts to re-examine love from modern perspectives and shed new light on the subject through a collection of immersive, sincere and fresh work.
This show was curated by Brittany Smith (also a participating artist) who chose this subject based on both her nostalgia and love for romantic movies. The problematic ideas about love that are ingrained that genre are the cliches that are part of what is being challenged in this show however they are not just casting light on these problems, but presenting the alternative which is a thoughtful examination of the experience with the good and bad left in.
Upon entering the gallery, you’re confronted with Bella Steele’s video installation as a female figure beckons you to enter and yet also caution’s you against it. The projection stands above you with heightened proportions and reassures you that “everything’s ok” (while cautioning against entering with her body language) and then the loop then ends with the comfort of her saying “there’s nothing to see here” (while waving you forward). It’s all standing in conflict with each other and also the internal knowledge of why you’re in this place. The timber of her voice imparts the sincerity of her directions even when they appear to be mixed with other messages so it doesn’t feel like as much of a trick as a frustration.
Emma Fernald takes a more physically symbolic look at love as you’re presented with two sacks of milk connected by a tube then the participant is instructed to use a provided straw and insert it and blow in in order to initiate a fluid transfer from one sack of smelly bug milk into the next. This tactile process works to remind you exactly how disgusting the human experience can be. I’m using disgusting in the best possible way and it called to mind how jarring it can be to see a representation of a physical process like in Damien Hirst’s “a Thousand Years”. The physicality of the process sticks with you and makes you consider how gross most of life is if you are really thinking about it. Admission: I’ll own that I was too much of a chickenshit to participate in this one but I was very afraid I’d accidentally end up with a mouthful of that milk.
There’s something that can’t be faked about intimacy. Nan Goldin was a master in distilling this and I felt similarly about Olivia Beccio’s pieces. The video, titled “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” an assortment of home movies are jigsawed together with an overlapping soundtrack of sounds from different home movies. Sometimes the sounds are at odds with the visual and sometimes they are adding layers to it. You feel the story and you feel the connection and without the context, the emotional content is free to stand on its own.
A single rose in a glass case and above a newspaper facsimile containing only classified ads. The voyeuristic peek into a sea of people searching for connections. Brittany Smith searched for specific ads that felt like real people looking for love when crafting the paper, but that doesn’t stop it from being a window into a secret world (if they’re not talking about your kink). The rose above it, pristine and protected by a glass case, (or contained and confined) shines a light of optimism on a piece that could be cynical. I found it oddly sweet for a piece with “Get Tied up and Vibed” written on the front page.
Webster’s Dictionary defines love as etc. and so forth. We’ve all heard that canned wedding speech and this showing is not that. It is the antithesis of that. These are sincere thoughts from people using visual language to transmit their real experiences in love. I picked a few of the pieces to highlight the vastly different ways that the participants approached the subject but the pieces I didn’t talk about are just as strong and varied. Our Sweet Secret Language is an immersive must-see showing of female Boston artists and I’d rank this as highly recommended to put on your calendar.
“Our Sweet Secret Language” runs until August 26 at Nomadic Gallery. Gallery Hours are Sat-Sun 12-4.