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A shelter where words fail 

Philly Fringe 2018: Da Vinci Art Alliance and Philadelphia Sculptors present Shelter

2 minute read
Chelsea Nader's 'Where She Told Me' is on display at Shelter. (Image courtesy of DVAA.)
Chelsea Nader's 'Where She Told Me' is on display at Shelter. (Image courtesy of DVAA.)

When you hear the word shelter, what do you see? A home? The arms of a loved one? A stronghold and promise of safety, or exposure and inevitable ruin? Shelter, the latest exhibition at Da Vinci Art Alliance (DVAA) poses this question, and the answer you get depends on which artist you ask.

In a collaboration with Philadelphia Sculptors, DVAA invited artists from the two groups' circles and beyond to submit sculpture pieces that engaged with the wide and kaleidoscopic theme of shelter. Pieces were juried by artist Elaine Crivelli, who then selected the works now on display on the first floor of DVAA’s bilevel space.

A sinister stunner

As one might expect, from one prompt comes varying perspectives and results. The selection is as diverse as the group of artists being featured, making for a well-rounded, if slightly hectic, viewing experience. But what Shelter lacks in aesthetic cohesion, it more than makes up for in fascinating and thrilling insights into a more-than-relevant theme.

In the piece Leaded Home, artist George Lorio built a miniature house out of wood, depicting just a bare interior and exterior painted with simple grey paint. But upon closer inspection, the paint has a sinister shimmer, hinting at the silent lead toxins that glitter with a dangerous, enticing beauty. It stunned me with its cool simplicity.

Small but daring

Many artists operated in a similar political vein, but some created sculptures that are too on-the-nose, speaking to our sociopolitical turmoil without employing inventive uses of materials or extraordinary construction. One such piece, Open your doors and take down your walls, comprised of two diminutive doors made of grey cloth, fell into this trap. But other works strike the right balance and are both relevant and wrenching. Cindy Lu’s heartbreaking Play features a set of toys fashioned out of emergency Mylar blankets — the same kind given to children of parents attempting to enter the United States who are now held in detention centers around the country.

Some of the most successful works strayed from the obvious. Georgette Veeder’s Petit Chou (a French endearment translating to “my little cream puff” or "little cabbage") is as perplexing as it is evocative. Comprised of handmade paper, natural vines, and fishing line for dangling, its opaqueness draws the eye and makes for a complex and engaging puzzle. It defies written description — this one must be viewed for yourself.

The exhibition is small but mighty, and Shelter fills the space with daring and catching works. DVAA has provided an artistic home for these sculptors and their imaginations, and the endeavor is well worth the visit.

What, When, Where

Shelter. Through September 23, 2018, with Philadelphia Sculptors at Da Vinci Art Alliance, 704 Catharine Street, Philadelphia, PA. (215) 550-1446 or davinciartalliance.org.

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