Curated by Marsha Nouritza Odabashian and Jennifer Jean Okumura, the artists of the ongoing “Hopscotch” exhibition take us back to familiar places bringing smiles, happiness and hope to our current daily lives.
Traced back to 500 BCE in prehistoric India, prohibited by Buddha and played by Roman soldiers for building strength, this darling childhood game has been hopping geographically throughout centuries and is currently in the virtual realm.
“Hopscotch” includes 10 contemporary artists confidently making their marks in various mediums: paper, oil on canvas, video, poetry and sculpture. The works claim collective and individual memory in relationship to places we choose to be grounded, either permanently or fleeting. It’s most recent showing at Lasell University’s Wedeman Gallery concluded on October 29; its curators are looking for new venues to host the collection of work.
Guest artists come from various geographic regions and backgrounds. While responding to the theme, they explore ideas of familiarity, movement, nationalism, globalism and belonging with fearless honesty and masterful artistic skills. Inspired by the Hopscotch game’s requirements of movement, crisscrosses and boundaries, the artists portray personal experiences that resonate with familiar places, celebrating their heritages and identities.
Identity formation is largely present in Marsha Nouritza Odabashian‘s work, where her Armenian heritage and culture flow into her composition, “Queen Zabel,” homage to her mother, also named Zabel. Queen Zabel of 12th century Armenia was interested in advancing literature and education. The background’s reddish and maroon earthy colors are inspired by Odabashian’s memories of the hues of Easter egg dyes a specialty of her mother. Encompassing the background, “Queen Zabel” is overlapped with vivid drawings suggesting rituals and meaningful life moments. The work, broken down into two distinct parts, but still connected by strings, references the gap between two countries: the voyage of her grandparents escaping the Armenian genocide, and perhaps an attempt to merge cultures.
Susan Denniston‘s work, “The Ledger,” of acrylic paint on paper, also inspired by the memory of her mother, is a colossal piece. It is a scroll hanging from the gallery’s high ceiling touching the floor and completely covered with colorful stripes, as an abstraction form of Hopscotch grids. Each mark memorializes thousands of sewers and children who died in Bangladesh’s disastrous garment factory collapse in 2013.
The exhibition includes a series of collaborative, transparent panels inviting viewers to manipulate the workaround, recreating new configurations while maintaining its original structure and functionality as artwork. These panels are abstract and figurative symbolic designs of the origin of Hopscotch, including representations of roman soldiers’ indigenous influences, and connection with the land as seen in Erik Grau’s work. Grau creates a delicate, peaceful, imaginary world carefully crafted with crystals, mushrooms, and green grass in large and smaller precious gems, communicating hope for the environment and the vulnerability of our land. Strategically placed in the middle of the gallery, Grau’s work conveys a sense of surrounding beauty.
Artist and educator Marlon Forrester’s large daunting oil on canvas paintings, “StJah23” and “StRas23,” reflects on his series, “If Black Saints Could Fly.” The works portray upfront icons of coexistence and harmony, a sense of togetherness among the exhibition pieces, and the various layers of meanings conveyed by each artist. Forester’s tall front figures referencing Black male bodies are carefully designed with lines purposely crafted to create optical illusions and almost holographic effects. They are captivating and generate an immediate connection between viewers and the works. Born in Guyana, South America, inspired by his heritage, Forrester details, in gold covered selected shapes, references to his homeland’s tropical forests increasingly threatened by the expansion of gold mining. Working on one’s gaze around the image from the inside-out, the turquoise geometric shapes and grids, resembling a basketball court, bridge the artist’s passion and heritage from past to present moments.
Jennifer Jean Okumura‘s well-balanced compositions cover the entire canvas exploring inquisitive feelings of belonging, suggesting the possibility of being trapped between worlds. Okumura’s sensual and emotional women’s portrait suggests fragility and acceptance. Her unknown female figures float and yet are sustained by beautiful colors blended within their emotional fragilities. Okumura’s women are similar, although each has peculiar uniqueness. All are bound up by a shared intention of moving forward, popping out of the canvas to carve their marks into the ground.
It is safe to assume that everyone has a special moment to remember when playing or watching someone play Hopscotch. It is easy to respond to the works in this delightful exhibition that brings viewers to familiar places, working as a shadow box with valuable references from personal and collective experiences.
Hopscotch has been presented in several locations across Boston, most recently at the Wedeman Art Gallery at Lasell University in Newton, Massachusetts, where it closed on October 29. Participating poets and artists are: Nancy Agabian, Tina Chakarian, Susan Denniston, Marlon Forrester, Erik Grau, Jennifer Liston Munson, Marsha Nouritza Odabashian, Jennifer Jean Okumura, Celeste Nazeli Snowber and Arevik Tserunyan. We hope to see this exhibition again soon as curators are on the lookout for additional opportunities to exhibit Hopscotch.
For more information, contact Jennifer Jean Okumura at [email protected] or Marsha Nouritza Odabashian at [email protected]. You can images from the Atlantic Wharf showing of “Hopscotch” here: https://www.artsy.net/show/array-contemporary-hopscotch-at-atlantic-wharf.