Lesley University College of Art and Design, Vandernoot Gallery/University Hall
The Uncannyists (Jerry Mischak, Kathleen O'Hara and Ben Sloat with guest artists) present Absent, the collective's third exhibition exploring Sigmund Freud's connotation of the word "uncanny" as recognized in his 1919 treatise "The Uncanny." The word derives from the negation of the German heimlich, which means belonging to the house, familiar, tame, intimate, homey. The inherent dialectic here is revealed at the moment when the familiar becomes uncomfortable, even frightening. Freud identifies the pivotal point in this phenomenon as the instant when our certainty of ourselves, and the safety of our hearth and home, come into question.
This exhibition focuses on the unsettling, even scary feeling one experiences when someone or something is not present in the usual or expected place. Each of the artists addresses a personal interpretation of uncanny absence. Irish painter Nick Miller's small paintings from his Vessels: Nature Morte series were conceived during a four-year long collaborative residency at a Northwest Hospice in Sligo, Ireland. The "vessels" are pots and vases he removed from his mother's collection during her last illness. Miller filled these with seasonal flowers, rapidly painting on prepared grounds to create urgently expressive memorials to his dying mother and the residents of the hospice.
Jerry Mischak misses the joy of practicing his childhood hobby of model making. He marks this absence with the construction of a recyclable 5-foot, cardboard and plastic model airplane. Mischak places the plane next to Once in the News, his collage painting documenting the faces of once famous people who have slipped from view, saying, "They were once in the news. You can't always rewind and who were the other people on the plane with you?"
Kathleen O'Hara laments the disappearance of living beings we have banished into near extinction, or who are under threat of elimination. Her wall installation Ghostland pairs silhouettes of endangered and extinct species with those of immigrant workers, and perches them within the branches of a wall-sized tree drawing.
Kenji Nakayama's typographic window/wall installation explores absence in terms of positive and negative space. Placing the viewer between a collage of black vinyl letters on the gallery's glass entry window and their painted white counterpart on the rear wall asks us to consider the duality of presence vs. absence.
Silence, Ben Sloat's site-specific installation, redefines the space of the gallery's two small alcoves with porous screens of conjoined black river stones. These de facto walls create partially obscured niches within which Sloat has installed his soundless video Little Moon.