Echo Trobridge Artist Residency, Brookline Arts Center
"It is normally my habit to wait until the end of a project to sum up the work presented with a simple but meaningful title. As the Echo Trobridge Artist-in- Residence at Brookline Art Center I found this to be a slight challenge. How to title and guide viewers through work that has been created as part material exploration, part installation, and part project development? My desire is to pay homage to the namesake of the residency, Echo Trobridge, the BAC’s fantastic facilities and staff, and the history of the center itself (as this work would not exist without these factors) while still emphasizing the themes and concerns that drive my work. Reviewing the transcribed lyrics for the K-Pop song, Echo Echo, by Girls’ Generation, I find an appropriate metaphor for my time as artist-in-residence that I hope will inform viewers to the context of this project.
I do not speak or read Korean but I’m drawn to the upbeat tempo of that song, at times finding myself humming the English chorus, “Like an echo, echo, echo in my mind...in my brain”. Here we find the main theme of the exhibition – echoes: echoes of the past, of ancestry, of fleeting desire and memory. In my Occhi sculptures I choose materials that are discarded remnants of domestic life; plates, platters, and dishes handed over to the thrift-store. These are objects familiar to many of us and for me they represent ancestry and aspiration, echoes of history and personal identity. I reassemble these collections into contemporary works that reward curiosity when viewed head-on, collapsing a multitude of details into ocular arrangements that recall charms used to ward off the malocchio (my ancestral Sicilian for “evil-eye”), but also echoing our own eyes that can fill our mind with delight, temptation, and desire... eyes that are a means of communication and interpersonal connection.
Communication is a form of “echo” which informs the second, body of work included in this exhibition, beaded strands entitled, Cant Slang. As a gay man I’m fascinated by a 19th and 20th century slang called Polari that was spoken by homosexuals, sailors, circus performers and other groups associated with criminal behavior in order to confuse and evade the ears of the law (often in parks such as the adjacent where these groups would seek each other out in a complicated navigation of public space and private intent. Interestingly, the only other English lyric of the aforementioned song is, “Put your hands up, put your hands up”). These works start as poems inspired by a passing glance or encounter and are translated to Morse code, finally taking shape when the code is strung in beads and pearls. As resident, I was able to scale-up this process by creating my own beads out of terracotta, choosing mixed nuts as a motif for this project to evoke the memory of cracking shells at the holiday table, and for their own associations with slang.
It is my hope that viewers contemplate the content of the work while also enjoying the aesthetic qualities of the pieces. Like a 130-year-old building or a pop song, we can settle for the face value, or we can dig deeper and come away with a more personal and nuanced connection.
I’d like to thank the staff of Brookline Art Center for honoring me with this opportunity and the time and access to push myself deeper into my work and present the result, EchoEcho, to the Brookline and Greater Boston community. "
Dave J Bermingham, 2018