By Glenn Billman, news correspondent
“Inundated,” a new exhibit of works by Mira Cantor, a Northeastern professor of art, was unveiled at the Kingston Gallery in the South End on Oct. 5. The show features nine seascapes she created on her sabbatical to Ireland this past spring.
“The sea is such an incredible and inspiring thing to look at, as well as being so scary,” Cantor said. “The dichotomy between that brings to bear the enormity emotions and feelings that exist in life. It’s a metaphor for everything we feel, from the best things to the worst things.”
Cantor first went to Ireland 12 years ago as the leader of a study-abroad program with the Burren College of Art, and she now describes it as her “home away from home.” She then spent March and April of this year painting the series on the country’s west coast, using similar dark shades of purples, blues, greens and greys to depict the sea. She plans to return there for her next series, which will focus on glacial erratics.
During her sabbatical, current events such as the drowning of Syrian refugees in the Mediterranean Sea and the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising reinforced the importance of the sea for Cantor.
“It’s just an amazing thing, how it separates people and also brings them together,” Cantor said. “And all my work, my whole life, has been about integration and people getting along and people working things out, and this just became another element in the history of my work for people to grapple with.”
Illesha Khandelwal, a senior photography major at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, met Cantor while she was in Ireland. She now helps Cantor in her studio and has witnessed the works emerge from blank canvases.
“She has a really brilliant sense for the way that visual language really works, and she spends so much time on every small decision,” Khandelwal said. “Like that corner, she probably sat in the studio and looked at it, like ‘should this be the way that it is?’ And repainted it and then repainted it again.”
Benjamin Barenblat, a computer engineer in Boston, attended the opening reception and described the exhibit as intense and somber.
“It doesn’t speak to me on a deep, visceral level,” Barenblat said. “But it’s thought-provoking and I enjoy it.”
Two of the seascapes in Cantor’s collection are partially obscured by small curtains, which the audience is invited to interact with and move. These additions ask viewers to contemplate their awareness or willful ignorance of issues by having them draw the curtains back on them.
“Global warming is right outside our door. The elements could wipe us out at any time, so there’s that precariousness about our situation,” Cantor said. “A lot of the messages in my work have to do with that awareness, that ‘be aware of this’ or ‘be aware of that.’ And ‘open your eyes, look out.’ In a good way, but also in a way that is cautious.”
“Inundated” will be on display at the Kingston Gallery in the South End until Oct. 30.
Photo by Alex Melagrano