“Change is constant, and art is a journey from the moment we wake up, and the moment we fall asleep, and everything in between.” A statement from the organizers of “Changing lives, Changing future” from the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Women Artists is an apt introduction to the dynamic and transformative group show at the Atlantic Wharf Gallery, on Congress Street. Located in the first floor gallery and flowing up the stairs to the second-floor landing, “Changing Lives, Changing future” is a collection of 52 works from a wide range of artistic styles and backgrounds. In a time when we are still continually disappointed by the lack of visibility our local artists must endure due to the ongoing pandemic crisis, this show is rejuvenating.
A striking example of one of the many mixed media and collage artists featured in the show, and one of the first works visitors see, is Mary Marley’s “Abundance.” Layers of paper and paint create a disjointed and colorful image of a figure with arms overflowing. In what could be an image of chaos, the title, “Abundance,” allows the viewer to look closely and interpret the image positively. Two round shapes appear at the top, perhaps this is not one figure but two, more head-shapes fill the arms of the figures, evoking an image of small children being held by joyful parents. The image is abstract enough for the viewer to imagine their own reality or dream of abundance. Marley stated, “I am interested in constructing wholeness from brokenness and connection from disparity.” She does precisely that, a complete image emerges from the mixture of paper and paint, and is even more profound as you understand that Marley’s process in creating these collages is to begin without knowing what the end result will be.
Another mixed media piece worth noting is the intense and powerful “Spill” by Marsha Nouritza Odabashian, located in the first floor gallery. Odabashian is a descendent of Armenian immigrants and genocide survivors, her heritage is an integral factor in her artistic process, as she uses an Armenian tradition of creating dying Easter eggs with boiled onion skin in her works. In explanation of this choice, she stated, “I was always fascinated that white or brown eggs thrown into a pot and boiled with yellow onionskins would come out bright maroon. I was haunted by the history of the tradition and the ritual.” Her “Spill” is glorious, a rough pile of onion skins with myriad veined and crackling textures, bleeding their natural dye into the canvas, surrounded by geometric drips of red and yellow. It looks accidental, however considering the inspiration of a family ritual behind the creation process, “Spill” is a piece full of intention, despite the name.
Inspired by a poignant poem by Deborah Leipziger, Giti Ganjei’s “Creation of Turquoise (Freedom)” is a vibrant painting located in the lower gallery. A blue mottled and roiling rock-like surface fills the lower half of the piece, curved lines mimic the shape of a woman, and are traced by the lower half of a simply executed white dove contrasted against a bright turquoise sky. The image evokes one line from Leipziger’s poem, “when the sky touched the earth the impact created veins in the stone so each turquoise would tell the story of sky and earth colliding.” The bird and the ground are two aspects of nature, completely unalike yet intertwined, and eternally connected. The artist is driven by her passion for justice and freedom, and explains that the poem and the painting are inspired by the concept of “light after darkness, and clarity after chaos.”
“Where are we going?” by Jennifer Jean Okumura is a painting which insists upon a viewer’s pause and contemplation. It is a shimmering portrait of a clear-eyed woman, unfinished, yet complete. The colors at the top of her head leak into the mottled background colors, as if the artist forgot to complete the image, however it is clearly intentional, and adds to the enigmatic nature of the piece. In Okumura’s own words, “Where are we going? is mysterious, unseen—she is a force of nature, a master of the dark and light and all in-between. We watch the world evolve and suffer but ultimately, compassion trumps all. Eventually, the world will be united, with love, peace, and harmony. Yes? Doable? I [We] Dunno.” This show is all about powerful women, and the incredible works of art they create, and Okumura’s “force of nature” is breathtaking.
The curators of this exhibition had quite a challenge in presenting all of these incredible works in this space.
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