By Puloma Ghosh
Boston, MA – At “Dreaming Gardens,” the summery inspiration of a well-kept garden comes to life within Suffolk University’s gallery. Above the hustle and bustle of Newbury Street, the small space is like a quiet moment in a private garden, where you can stop and breathe some fresh air.
Given the season, “gardens” seem to be a logical theme for an exhibit. However, curator Deborah Davidson takes it a step further by bringing the dreamlike quality of these hazy summer months into the gallery.
“I wanted to do something for the summer,” Davidson said. “I landed on ‘Dreaming Gardens’. One of the things I was thinking about is the idea of a garden and the history of what a garden is: a kind of special, secret place. It’s a very ancient idea, like the Garden of Eden — in literature too — Alice’s garden, The Secret Garden. Since I’m very interested in the Boston area artists, I thought: who here cultivates gardens that are unusual?”
The collection certainly has unusual yet intriguing interpretations of this age-old concept.
The first piece that draws the eye at first glance is Barbara Gallucci’s “Topia Chairs.” Mimicking the appearance of topiary, the round green masses pepper the exhibit, with a collection of them gathered at the center. One is at first wary to approach them — topiaries hold an untouchable place in our minds as a skillfully crafted pieces that are not to be toyed with.
However, the second thought that occurs is wow, those look comfortable. In fact, these mock topiaries are actually beanbags, and gallery visitors are encouraged to have a seat as they take in the other artwork in the gallery and become a part of Gallucci’s piece. The concept is playful and contradictory, but also a commentary on the ways in which nature is tailored for our comfort and pleasure that combines the suggestion of nature with a consumer product.
From a comfortable seat on one of Gallucci’s topiary beanbags, one has a clear view of the short film being projected onto the back wall. Avy Claire’s video is an ethereal image of foliage, living somewhere between dream and consciousness.
The blurred lines and easy swaying of the leaves lulls the viewer into a sense of peace that many feel while taking a walk through a pleasant garden.
Claire’s video is a recording of the shadows of plants against a blank wall, indirectly translating the feeling of the garden without ever actually showing it, suspended in the space between reality and suggestion.
Several feet away, part of Beth Galston’s “Recasting Nature” series, silvery strands hang literally suspended from the ceiling. At first, they have the appearance of very long icicles, shimmering in the gallery lights, but upon closer examination, thorns are visible along the length of each sliver. They are actually castings of rose branches in resin, manipulated to hang straight. Resin itself is a material derived from plants, and the piece remolds one element of nature with another. The installation is best experienced by taking careful steps through the small forest of glass-like branches, watching the shadows play on the wall, as they appear to tremble with life.
These are only three of many stops along the path through this exhibit. In this way, “Dreaming Gardens” takes you through each piece as one element of a cohesive garden that breathes with life even indoors, each taking the garden and displaying through a unique vision: meticulously pinned dried pieces of someone else’s garden; two-dimensional pieces that begin to grow and flower either visually or literally from their flat planes; pieces of nature suspended in time, whether in resin, ice or ink.
“Dreaming Gardens” brings the gardens of the mind and of the Earth together to create an otherworldly garden in full bloom within the walls of Suffolk University.
(“Dreaming Gardens” is exhibiting at the Suffolk University Gallery on 75 Arlington Street, Boston, through August 22. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon 5:30 p.m. After 7 p.m., and on weekends, enter through main lobby at 10 Saint James Ave. For more information, call (617)-994-4283.)