I recently bumped into a friend of a friend on Harrison Avenue in Boston. She was out having a “gallery day.”
Harrison Avenue, in the city’s South End — more specifically, in its SoWa Art + Design District — is an excellent place to have such a day. There are dozens of galleries to visit within a couple of blocks stretch, including an especially large clump of them in the buildings at 450 and 460 Harrison.
This gallery-goer had just come from seeing the “Projecting Her” exhibit at Adelson Galleries when our paths crossed. She recommended I see it. She told me that it consisted of just a few paintings, simple but moving. She also noted that they were painted collaboratively by twin sisters.
Although I walk past that gallery almost every day, it was a couple of weeks before I stepped inside. I was often dragging a wheeled dolley cart behind me when I passed by, and reluctant to drag it up the stairs inside the gallery. (I’ve since acquired a lighter, sleeker model so that shouldn’t deter me in the future.)
The paintings were just as described to me. Simple but moving. The tones were subdued, and with one exception they appeared to have been set in the same place — the interiors of an old house with wood floors.
These are oil paintings I could stand and look at for long periods at a time. It’s fascinating to study the mottling of the light, the enveloping shadows, the soft draping of sheets, and the age and wear along the wood floors and trim. There is much that is only suggested with the paint, yet comes across as absolutely there.
Not only do Farzaneh and Bahareh Safarani paint collaboratively, but they paint each other. The bodies are beautifully realistically rendered, what I would call practically photographic in appearance.
When I approached “Asleep” and saw glimmers of light dancing above the subject’s head, I thought for a moment it was coming from the gallery windows above it. I soon realized it wasn’t, and turned around and looked up. I expected to see a projector somewhere, and I did. It was attached to the ceiling. Up until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me to take the show’s title, “Projecting Her,” literally. The projector superimposed a translucent image of a woman (possibly the same one) in motion. She walked around, and stepped over, the woman on the floor. She walked over to the window and pulled the shades down.
Projected lines moving across the body were captured in the photo above. That is what gives it that sense that perhaps the woman’s spirit is preparing to rise up out of her body. To be completely honest, the projection aspect wasn’t my favorite thing about this art exhibit. It does inspire some narrative questions, yes, but I would have been really pleased just to study these paintings as they are. I was happy to just take them in and not ask questions of them.
I was the only visitor to the gallery as I looked at them. I recall some classical music playing quietly. To me, it was an incredibly peaceful experience to stand in this calm and simple interior and gaze upon these soft, moody scenes.
Another painting by the Safarani sisters, very large in scale, appears to show the heavily wood-lined interior entryway of an old church. This one also employs a projection screen to bring periodic shifts to the lighting.
In all, there are five paintings in the exhibit. I’m writing this in the last week of the exhibit, but if you get down to the SoWa neighborhood by Sunday, October 30 you can see them. I hope you do, and I’d like to hear your experience.
Adelson Galleries Boston is at 520 Harrison Avenue.