by Alana Dore, deputy inside editor
At first glance, the Nave Gallery Annex is just an old house behind the famous Redbones BBQ in Davis Square. The main door opens into a small corridor lined with business cards and flyers and, as the floorboards creak with each step, one may start to wonder if they are in the right place for an art show.
The Annex opened in Somerville as an extension of the original Nave Gallery, located just outside of Teelee Square, two years ago. Since then, it has held over 20 thought-provoking exhibitions in the distinctive space at 53 Chester Street, including, most recently, This Into That: Found Object Art, Assemblage and Other Transformed Work.
The exhibit, which ran through March, featured a range of media including videos, woodwork, prints, photographs and even clothing. In fact, nearly every piece combined multiple media, like printing on wood, to create unexpected and imaginative combinations.
“So much of what my work is about comes from used materials, or found materials, and transforming them into something new, giving them a new context or using them to tell a different story,” curator Caleb Cole said. “I thought that would be a really interesting idea for a show because there are so many different ways that artists are using found materials with such different end results … It would be so interesting to have a really big variety of those in one show for people to look at and think about.”
The gallery invites local artists to curate shows with a theme of their choosing. If the artist agrees, the space orchestrates an open call for submissions. Then, the curator selects the pieces they find most interesting.
The most challenging part of curating for Cole was the process of selecting pieces, he said.
“There were many pieces that were exciting or surprising,” Cole said. “[The question is]: what will fit in the space because the space is so non-traditional? It’s not smooth [or] flat [with], like, three or four white walls … It’s got its own character.”
Some of Cole’s work can be found in the exhibit as well.
“I’m in this with them. We’re of the same kind,” Cole said. “We are the type of people who see things that already exist in the world and can think of ways to transform it and recontextualize it, and that’s exciting to us.”
A popular piece at the exhibit is a small, white ceramic rabbit. The ears of the rabbit have been broken off, turned sideways and reattached, creating an unsettling anomaly which has mesmerized visitors, including graphic designer Terry Dovidio.
“I wish I had submitted,” Dovidio, a long-time volunteer and supporter of the gallery, said. “This is an amazing show. I think it’s really good. All the people they seem to range in age too … and the gallery has gotten submissions from all over the United States.”
Volunteers like Dovidio help keep the space operational. The Nave Gallery and its auxiliary Annex are both public spaces operated by ARTSomerville, a nonprofit organization.
“These shows are curated by individual artists, which is just stunning because artists are able to come in … and do a show of something they’ve always wanted to be a part of,” Dovidio said. “So they’re representing themselves, but representing their genre or archetype of art that they like as well.”
For Cole, this exhibit was an opportunity to share his artistic views and change the way people think about everyday objects.
“So often we just don’t think anything about … this kitchen utensil, for example. You just don’t think about it. You think about it for its functional use and that’s it,” Cole said. “I think it’s sort of just getting people to look at things in a different way. That it knocks some sort of switch for them … or makes some sort of different connection. On a basic level, if people are seeing something in a different way, that’s exciting.”
Coming next to the Nave Gallery Annex is an exhibit called The Birds and the Bees, focusing on everything from the literal aviators to the parental folklore. The show opens on April 17.
Photo by Scotty Schenck