Umbrella-like petunias to shifting cityscapes can be found at Boston College’s most recent art installation, located at the Student Programs Hallway of Carney. Themes of disconnect and communication, between visual subjects and the associations we impose on them, structure the work exhibited. A host of staff and faculty from BC’s Art Club invite us to glimpse the infinite through the narrow vein of specific images.
Coming into the quiet Carney hallway, one first notices the series of three flower photographs taken by Ken Porter, technology consultant at BC Information Technology Services. Each piece explores the distance between the camera and it’s subject to create compositions that range from serene to otherworldly. Petunia Blue presents the flower as a world of its own, a single stem arcing into the blue roof of the petal above it. Light playing along the stem’s hair-thin tendrils is the only suggestion of an external surrounding. The next piece, Dragonfly on Lily, disrupts this state of immersion by stepping back from the flower’s anatomy. Beads of rain accentuate the delicate inner lids of its structure. A dragonfly perched upon the lily’s outer petal suggests the ephemerality of Porter’s composition. Indeed, the lily is so fragile and stately that one believes it separated from the abstract mass of green forestry behind it, establishing a division between the subject and the world it exists in. Porter’s final piece exhibited, Wildflower, breaks this division by juxtaposing the flower next to others of its species. The central balance found in the previous photographs has been shifted, breathing a sense of movement and energy into the pink-shaded subjects.
If these works inspire tranquility, we’re jolted awake by Wenquian Leng’s, CGSOM ’18, mixed-media collage, She Is In The Crazy City. The work is a mosaic of altered urban landscapes, blended into the silhouette cutouts of a woman’s face from various angles. The lack of a central perspective conveys the chaotic transformation of identity the woman is undergoing. Buildings merge into other buildings, people are woven into the fabric of their surroundings. An airy freedom pervades this night-time landscape. Much as in Porter’s flower-trilogy, typical structures are reinterpreted to reveal whole worlds manifested in singular objects and emotions.
Photographer Daniel Kirschner, biology professor, deepens this conception of the city with his following two pieces, At The Grove Road Cafe and Centurion Distracted. The former concerns a woman staring out a café window at some object hidden from view. The blurry shadow of passing pedestrians reinforces the temporality of the woman’s perceptions. The latter piece inverts this relationship, showing an angular advertisement at which the unseen subject is staring. The connection between two visual communicants is cut, generating an atmosphere of urban ennui. Heather Olins, assistant biology professor, adds to this portraiture of the city in flux—her pieces concern marine related subjects, such as scuba-gear or cheese-mold dishes, viewed in close-up. New identities and structures arise from a manipulation of our assumptions of nature.
We come to the only formal painting set in the exhibit, the works of Anne Bernard Kearney, part-time faculty member of romance languages and literature department, whose stippling brush technique expresses the atomisation of individuals in modern society. These pieces depict pastoral, urban, and oceanic environments, often planted with faceless spectators staring off into the distance. At Sea is a particularly beautiful painting. It shows the backs of two women who are leaving an island darkly outlined on the horizon. The omission of their faces injects the piece with a dream-like texture—we feel a melancholic disconnect with the subjects, perhaps reflecting their own emotional reaction to departing what might be their homeland. Kearney’s airy and gentle compositions bring together the elements of wonder and detachment that made the previous pieces so engaging.
Most appealing about this exhibit is its lack of urgency, asking only for a minute or two of the audience’s time. Like the pieces presented, it is but one part to a larger puzzle whose picture doesn’t require finishing. You can pass through it quickly and glimpse something peculiarly bright, uncynical, or spend some moments absorbing the details, perhaps finding something new and beautiful in the mundane and everyday aspects of existence.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor