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The Nave Gallery is a lovely new exhibition space located in the still-active Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church on Powderhouse Boulevard. The gallery recently showed a lovelier still exhibit, curated by Lauren O’Neal and Alex Metral.

The Persistence of Becoming was a collection of works that explored memory, especially in relation to the self and the body. Most works were figurative with obvious and direct connections to the human body. The becoming of the title seemed to be a ‘becoming’ in an ongoing mortal sense; we are persistently becoming dead, becoming dust. It was as if O’Neal and Metral had sepia-toned the floors, walls, and pores of the place. In fact, “The Persistence of Becoming” struck me as so cohesively sited that it could have been a single installation. While I was there, I took a rest in an old church pew. A radiator whizzed on. And two members of the congregation stopped by bearing old electrical equipment (the existence of parishioners struck my sorry, secular self as wonderfully quaint.) From the exhibition notes, “the participating artists investigate how our past, present, and future are always in a state of decay, metamorphosis and regeneration. The point of remembering may not be to retrieve information, but to allow the self to endure, to sustain itself, over time.”

Francesca A. Maddaluno’s photographs of scenes of a family’s cramped, multigenerational living space were remarkable. Like an archive of a multichannel reality, it was impossible to place their era. The apartment in the photographs looked like it would smell strongly of slow-cooking spaghetti sauce.

Sharon Pierce showed two simple, unfinished wooden boxes with peepholes. Peering inside, a viewer could access just a glimpse of a seemingly fully constructed interior with shadows, ghosts, and grannies. At least, that is what I thought I saw. I cannot be certain. There was a shadow that moved slightly as if in the breeze, and perhaps a corner. The views struck me as both homey and mystical.

“The Persistence of Becoming” also included works by Sara Ashodian, Kasia Bytnerowicz, Kathy Desmond, Alex Metral, Barak Levi Olins, David Politzer, Lauren O’Neal, William Robb, Aaron T. Stephan, and Sand T.

My favorite piece, “Phantom Boy Portrait” by Judith Hugentobler, was tucked away in a corner, sitting on top of an old table (many of the works in the exhibit made use of well-worn furniture). It was a bust of a boy, fashioned from what looked like a cheap, rather baroque brocade that had been filled and smeared with plaster and perched on top of a tall, thin ceramic pedestal. From the side, the boy’s head looked like an artist’s clever bricolage. Full on, however, the whole face was spookily compressed. I imagined a dark, Gothic vortex at work.

The Nave Gallery

"The Persistence of Becoming" was on view until November 6th at the Nave Gallery at Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church, 155 Powderhouse Blvd., Somerville, MA.

All images are courtesy of Charles Daniels, the artists, and Nave Gallery.

Anneka Lenssen is a regular contributor to Big, Red & Shiny.

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