By Juan A. Ramirez, Arts & Entertainment editor
“We live in a culture of temptation with hedonistic values,” a curatorial statement by Unbound Visual Arts’ (UVA) Kayla Spafford, reads, “and yet we are expected to resist.”
These words are found in large letters in the middle of her newest exhibition at Harvard Ed Portal – an educational program and workspace run by the university – titled “Temptation of the Mind and Body.” The show, which opened at the Allston-based gallery on June 3, seeks to bring an artistic tangibility to our minds’ temptations and desires.
“I really wanted to work with artists who could abstractly or literally represent the theme of temptation,” Spafford said at a curator and artist talk hosted at the gallery last weekend. “I’ve always been interested in the psychology behind why we create art.”
The 19 pieces on display in the small but well-curated gallery represent the human psyche and how it processes the world around us. Four mixed-media paintings by Pauline Lim, for example, depict scenes of despair ranging from body image-related woes to alcoholic melancholia. In an artist statement published by UVA, she explains that her paintings depict “the truth and folly of our existence.”
“I am a fear-driven person,” Lim says. “I am always freaking out about the fact that we all have to die, so a lot of my paintings have to do with the frustration of being trapped in a mortal existence.”
One of these, aptly titled “Anvil on my Head,” depicts a Buddha-like figure nervously sitting behind a computer, worrying about the impending fall of the titular object.
Other pieces in the exhibit deal with humanity in a more abstract manner, such as the three sculptural installations by Joan Mullen which, mounted on walls, display an organic quality reminiscent of early clay tools.
“Being in the world, my relationships with people all inform my work,” Mullen says. “Even though the pieces are very abstract, they represent a quality of human movement and thought.”
The works on display, described by Harvard as narratives “inspired by the art/science theme that runs through much of the Ed Portal’s programming,” run from direct representations of human psychology to decidedly more abstract visions.
“We were playing around with my many different themes beforehand,” Spafford says. “Once we delved into what we would explore, we chose artists who would best represent the idea of temptation while being reflective of artists in the Greater Boston Area.”
The artists, though hailing from places like Venezuela, Korea and Russia, all live and work in the Boston area and were approached via their connection to Unbound Visual Arts, which regularly collaborates with Harvard Ed Portal.
“We associate our temptations with negative consequences, but good can come out of these desires,” the curatorial statement reads. “Through interacting with temptation, we are able to reflect upon what is important to us.”
The exhibition will be showcased at the Harvard Ed Portal until July 22.
Pauline Lim, “Why Did I Do That Again?” Image courtesy of Unbound Visual Arts.