art design

In SoWa Art + Design District, video gallery brings art to the sidewalk 24/7

Glading Marteen 

“The experience of art in a traditional gallery tends to be sort of restrictive,” she said. “We want to throw away as many barriers as we can to the experience of art, and this is something that we can do easily that brings art to people — literally where they are, on the sidewalk, walking by.”

The first work, “Out of Nowhere” by Melissa Shaak, debuted in January, Craig said. After that, the gallery partnered with the Boston LGBTQIA+ Artist Alliance to showcase the work of five local transgender artists for the show “Trans Experimental,” on view from mid-February to mid-April.

“It was kind of an experiment — completely an experiment — to see what would happen,” said Craig, who cofounded the contemporary art gallery in 2011. “And then we just put out an open call.”

A still image from "I Am," a work of video art by Claudia Ruiz Gustafson.
A still image from “I Am,” a work of video art by Claudia Ruiz Gustafson.Claudia Ruiz Gustafson

Videos must be under 10 minutes and silent, since the monitors can’t play audio. Craig said the gallery has been “overwhelmed with submissions,” with more than 100 coming in from all over the world. Often, the work of several artists will be on display during a given period.

“There are just not a lot of venues for experimental video to be shown outside of select film festivals here and there,” she said. “There was this need that we didn’t even know existed that we were able to fill.”

Works must be “visually compelling first,” Craig said, full of vivid hues and movements. The videos range from animation to recordings of performance art to kaleidoscopic bursts of color.

For viewers, “It needs to be arresting in a way that it catches their eye and causes them to stop and look,” Craig said.

One of the most recent videos on display was Sofie Hodara’s “Telescope Tondos,” which was on view until Christmas. Last winter, Hodara was staying at a friend’s high-rise apartment in Brooklyn and spent hours peering through her telescope at the unobstructed cityscape.

She decided to rig her iPhone to the telescope and take a series of live photos to “capture the arc of a day” — a basketball going in a hoop, construction workers hammering away, the Statue of Liberty at a red dusk — which she then strung together.

One of the goals of the project, she said, was to document the view, which construction would soon obscure. The other goal was to find a way to connect with the city even as she was holed up inside.

A still image from "Telescope Tondos," a work of video art by Sofie Hodara.
A still image from “Telescope Tondos,” a work of video art by Sofie Hodara.Sofie Hodara

“I felt removed,” said Hodara, an assistant teaching professor of design at Northeastern University. “This piece sort of articulates and captures the isolation I felt.”

Even though the videos must be soundless, some artists, such as Claudia Ruiz Gustafson, incorporated text into their videos. Gustafson’s video, “I Am,” which was on view in May, was inspired by the ancient poem “The Thunder, Perfect Mind,” believed to have been written from the perspective of a feminine deity. The video includes some stanzas from the poem as subtitles.

The video, filmed on the shore, shows Gustafson looking outward at the horizon; letting sand fall through her fingers; cradling the wing of a bird. At some points, the video flashes to its negative.

“I love to go back and to bring back ideas from the past and add a contemporary flair,” said Gustafson, who is based in Framingham. “My goal was just to honor our femininity, the power inside us — just to create a visual poem, basically, to respond to that old poem.”

Fountain Street Gallery plans to keep “The Sidewalk Video Gallery” going indefinitely, said Craig, who has been heartened by the way this project has made the gallery’s work more accessible to the public.

Whether or not people actually step into the gallery, “we’re going to be able to provide them with something unusual and fun to look at as they pass by,” she said.

Dana Gerber can be reached at [email protected]

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