Continuing through May 28, 2022
After years of living in the shadow of Covid-19, people are longing to shift their lives away from physical and emotional isolation. Some are even embracing optimism and light, as if Donovan’s 1967 song “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” is the new soundtrack of their lives. Gallerist Lisa Sette recalls first hearing the song as a child, but she found inspiration for the current exhibition after hearing it again recently. The show features work by a dozen artists, including several whose creative output channels themes of love and hope. Others show works that illuminate Donovan’s expansive view of human experience and spiritual longing, or show a way forward in a world still filled with social injustice.
The psychedelic undertones of Donovan’s admonition are best exemplified by Ala Ebtekar’s “Zenith (IX),” which blends swirling clouds in a stylized Persian form with a field of constellations through the use of both acrylic paint and cyanotype photography on canvas. It’s a dreamy invitation to look beyond the mundane and embrace a cosmic vision of beauty and flow. That gentle energy takes an entirely different form in Carrie Marill’s “Astral Form,” an acrylic-on-linen-on-panel painting whose triangular trajectories touch at their tips to form an angular shape reminiscent of an hourglass. Here, the cosmos appears both delicate and strong, as lines suggesting the diversity of human experience channel harmony rather than discord.
Beyond these abstractions, the exhibition includes several works that speak specifically to the purveyors of peace and love among us, whether they be world leaders or family matriarchs. Charlotte Potter’s “Gilded Saints” is an installation composed of 14 hand-engraved glass portraits of activists and other change-makers. The portraits hang on a wall at the center of the gallery, suggesting the focal role of people who translate their love and hope into action. The portraits, ranging from Malala to Gandhi, are connected by delicate steel chains that imply existential connections between remarkable people who transcend the boundaries of time and space. Nearby, “Hey, Sam” (2019-2022) is a vinyl wall installation with sculpture and sound that incorporates the image and voice of the artist’s grandmother.
These works are particularly meaningful when considered in the context of the gallery’s recent exhibition history. In 2017, as political rhetoric based in fear and hatred was on the rise, Sette responded by presenting a group exhibition titled after a Timmy Thomas tune, “Tell Me Why, Tell Me Why, Tell Me Why (Why Can’t We Live Together?).” In 2019, the exhibition “Subversive White” was driven in part by observations of white supremacist ideology in the public square. Now, in “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” the gallery creates a space for artists and viewers to imagine new futures trending towards empathy, kindness, and social justice.
But there’s a balance to be struck here, because the present moment is by no means marked by justice, tolerance, or unbridled positivity. “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” achieves that balance with works of anger and protest by Merryn Omotayo Alaka, Enrique Chagoya, Binh Danh, Angela Ellsworth, Marie Navarre, Ato Ribeiro, Julianne Swartz, and Benjamin Timpson. Alaka’s text and bold designs for banners made with pony beads and Kanekalo hair herald the importance of positive affirmation. Chagoya’s painted compositions on paper highlight the ignorance and absurdity of anti-immigrant sentiments. And Timpson’s backlit portraits of missing and murdered Indigenous women made with tiny pieces of ethically sourced butterfly wings have a liminal quality suggestive of unseen connections to those left behind, as well as of the eternal hope that justice will prevail.