Sheltered Past at a Historical Carriage House
August 7, 2015
Bay Ridge Place, Brooklyn
Set in a historical carriage house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Sheltered Past calls artists to share stories and experiences from the past – imagined or real, belonging to others or to themselves – in a setting that evokes what has come before but still lingers.
Like all Stand exhibitions, the venue plays an integral role to the art. From butcher and bar, to greenhouse and sewing room, local public spaces have inspired the series’ artists and housed their work. Sheltered Past now invites artists and viewers to a more private space, where cobblestone and carriage house once signaled home, and where memories, hidden in time or under layers of conscience, are mined for the treasures they might yield.
Show Essay by Nicole Fennimore
In Book X of Homer’s Odyssey, the witch Circe directs the poem’s hero to pay honor and heed to the dead before continuing on his course towards Ithaca. As if subsumed by those very waves which will enfold and swallow his own men, Odysseus succumbs to the pull of the past before re-emerging on his journey home.
An object, a memory, a word from the past may draw us back before we move ahead. A step not taken or maybe taken better, a habit or custom learned from a parent, the story of people unrelated yet relatable to us, a memory whose sweetness still lingers – such are the ghosts that inhabit our minds.
Who we are today rests ineluctably upon the experiences of our distant and not distant pasts. What we have seen, heard, tasted and felt populates our minds with ideas and judgments. What is good or bad, welcome or dreaded, sought or avoided is often derived from reflecting on our memories and understanding where and how we ought to go next.
The artist holds a special place in the re-creation of the past. In examining an object, an experience, a story or image, she summons in her mind and in her work the spirit of those past beings. Those voices serve to animate her own present soul, and enliven the heart or mind of the person who receives her art.
Like Odysseus, whose libations of earthly nourishment – milk and honey, wine and water, barley and blood – invoke the souls of the dead to speak, the artist’s materials reawaken the past. The ink that renders woods of childhood escape, the shadow boxes that resurrect stories of objects found, the penciled impressions of past forms – such elements offer a medium through which memories can comfort, warn, remind, and propel forward those travelers whose vessels still, for some short while, roam the earth’s waters.