One of four current National Association of Women Artists Massachusetts Chapter (NAWA MA) online exhibitions, “Floating Dreams” is poignant and peaceful — a welcome invitation to reflect and an engaging collection of works. The show explores, in tandem, the realms of the subconscious mind and the physical, tactile world. Full of pieces that one might not immediately associate with its theme, “Floating Dreams” challenges viewers to stay present and inquisitive among each contributing artists’ work. And this seems to be exactly what “Floating Dreams” is about: leaving ample space for interpretation; implying the slightly fantastical or subtly surreal; and allowing us to access our inner dreams, constant within us though scarcely recognized.
In viewing the exhibition as a whole, the inspirational force of the natural world becomes clear. A few works feature obvious representations of plants and animals, such as “Water Lilies III Petite” by Linda Pearlman Karlsberg, depicting a stunning pink blossom among brilliant green lily pads, and “Vanishing #2” by Laurie Simko, an oil painting of a bird which blends into its colorful perch, the whole piece seeming to melt and float at once.
Works like “Still” by Rosalie Cuticchia, a deceptively simple marriage of five muted tones, and “Mind in Flux” by Sallie Strand, with primaries peeking through clouds of grey, are more abstract. These pieces in particular invite a swell of emotion, striking a note that rings in tune with the cognitive blurriness involved in the process and recollection of dreaming.
Yet somehow, Cuticchia and Strand’s abstractions do not feel distinct from Karlsberg and Simko’s more overt depictions of “nature” and its inhabitants. I remember, as I try to discern what it is which keeps “Floating Dreams” so cohesive, that dreaming is a deeply instinctual behavior, a mechanism ingrained within us. In doing so, I discover that the works in this exhibition challenge any distinctions we might make between ourselves, as humans, and “nature” as a place where bugs and birds reside. What follows are questions of not only the source and purpose of our dreams but also our place in the physical world.
Equally apparent throughout the show are references to the sea and its ever-mystical keeper, the moon. The most surprising works featuring these subjects include Kirstin Ilse’s bright and blooming “Smoke of a Volcano Gives Way to the Moon” and “Gift From the Sea” by Mary Hurwitz, a rugged dress form crafted from deep green seaweed. Alongside the surreal “Birth of Venus with Zephr and Maids” by Dorothy Pilla, the unmistakably dreamy “Ocean 92212 – Ethereal Bather” by Kim Alemian and an almost audible depiction of the ocean, “Mood Jade” by Jess Hurley Scott, these works inspire the inquiry of what, exactly, ties this imagery, these spaces, so closely with dreaming. I can only think that they represent the wild unknown — the forces beyond our reach that make themselves apparent through our literal dreams and our deepest hopes.
Each of NAWA MA’s online exhibitions are well worth the “visit.” Though resonant now in the time of COVID-19, while hope is especially called for and dreams may be particularly vivid, “Floating Dreams” is a timeless collection of works. Simultaneously, the online nature of the show (for now) is in and of itself a reason to visit. Possibly temporary or perhaps a peek into the future, shows like “Floating Dreams” prove that artists and curators can provide real experiences with artwork remotely. Indeed, online exhibitions may well become a norm — not replacing in-person viewing but enhancing it. Through viewing online shows patrons may decide which ones they’d like to visit in person and, post-visit, appreciate having access to the thought-provoking content they’ve seen. I invite you to see for yourself what the current, and quite possibly lasting, fuss is about and participate in the exciting new world of online exhibitions.
(The National Association of Women Artists – Massachusetts Chapter works to “foster and promote awareness of, and interest in, visual art created by women” in Massachusetts and beyond. “Floating Dreams,” curated by Suzanne Schultz, is on view at https://nawama.org/shop-floating-dreams.)