Almost like being there

DVAA presents ‘Colors of Hope’ in its new virtual gallery space

3 minute read
Memories of better days, and a hope for the future: 2015's 'Bridal Party Joy.' (Photo by Marvin Greenbaum.)
Memories of better days, and a hope for the future: 2015's 'Bridal Party Joy.' (Photo by Marvin Greenbaum.)

With Colors of Hope, Da Vinci Art Alliance (DVAA) opens the door to Gallery X, a virtual space that visitors can roam as easily as a physical gallery…with a little hand-eye coordination. The exhibition was conceived and juried by DVAA 2020 curatorial fellow Vicente Ortiz Cortez, who selected a dozen artists’ interpretations of hope. Thematically, the works light candles of optimism in a dark time.

Memories nourish hope

Celebrating with friends is a source of hope for photographers Marvin Greenbaum and Ellen Rosenberg. Greenbaum’s Bridal Party Joy (2015) shows a conga line of young women, led by the bride-to-be in calf-length pink tulle skirt and short white veil. Her casually dressed friends lean on one another, laughing: a chain of happiness.

Rosenberg puts us in the middle of a sunlit second line in Stepping Out in New Orleans (2020). The camera centers on a woman draped in pearls and a feather boa, sashaying to the swing of a brass band. Behind, we see a trumpeter and just the bell of a tuba. Marchers are finely dressed, parasols are festooned with fringe, and the only thing that matters is moving to the music.

The images invite us in, to share an unguarded laugh with close friends, to strut with a French Quarter crowd. To see these photographs is to smile. They make us long for the day when such innocent pleasures will once again be perfectly safe.

Meet the digital gallery

Technology has become a lifeline since COVID-19, and it’s essential to Colors of Hope. The exhibition is an accomplishment not only of Cortez’s curatorial vision, but of Bryant Girsch’s virtual environment. Girsch, DVAA’s director of exhibitions and programming, used the game-developing software Unity to design Gallery X and install the artwork. The result is an experience that’s almost as enjoyable as walking into DVAA’s real-world home in South Philadelphia.

Gallery X is a bright, two-room space that offers a couple of advantages over physical galleries: its charcoal gray support pillars don’t hurt if you bump into them, and no alarm sounds if you try to climb the roped-off stairs.

Colors of Hope can be accessed only on computers, not phones. Navigation requires arrow keys to move the avatar, and a mouse or trackpad to change the field of vision. A short video shows how.

At first it’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach, but gliding through the gallery becomes more intuitive with practice. Soon, you’re cruising by David Meade Walker’s Moonlit Room (1988), an acrylic in which lunar light caroms off the carpet to illuminate a cubist interior.

You can almost feel it: Linda Dubin Garfield's 'Happy Memories.' (Image courtesy of the artist.)
You can almost feel it: Linda Dubin Garfield's 'Happy Memories.' (Image courtesy of the artist.)

As in any exhibit, you can view works in any order and shift positions to change perspective. Information mounted next to each artwork lists title, artist, component materials, real-life size, and price (a portion of the show’s proceeds will benefit South Philly’s Juntos).

Natural resilience

Nature has become an increasing source of stability in a world that seems to be coming apart. Robert Reinhardt’s 2019 watercolor Light of the Day #1 and Marcie M. Ziskind’s 2019 wool-and-yarn diptych Rolling Hills/Roiling Water are just two of several works documenting the restorative effect of gazing into an endless sky or fathomless ocean.

It’s not surprising that watercolors and photographs translate well to the virtual format, but fabric and mixed-media works also read well in Gallery X. We can see the texture of Ziskind’s wet-felted fabric, symbolizing layers of grass, rock, and churning water, and almost feel Linda Dubin Garfield’s Happy Memories 1 (2019), an abstract arrangement of souvenirs suggesting lace, sheet music, old greeting cards, and fabric swatches.

Colors of Hope demonstrates that humanity can find its way through darkness. Its verisimilitude offers a reservoir of calm, a quiet space in which to consider things that matter, which can temporarily be lost amid clamor and anxiety. The exhibit nourishes us with the assurance that even the longest tunnel ends in light.

A portion of proceeds from works sold through Colors of Hope will benefit Juntos, a Latinx immigrant human rights organization in South Philadelphia. The contribution represents DVAA’s participation in COVER-19%, a campaign highlighting the impact of giving, and calling on the creative community to work together in this critical time.

What, When, Where

Colors of Hope. Juried by Vicente Ortiz Cortez. Through September 30, 2020, at Da Vinci Art Alliance’s online Gallery X.

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