The winter group exhibition at Eye Lounge is a survey of the current work of each Eye Lounge artist, organized around the central theme of nostalgia. With a plethora of different styles and media, the exhibition tackles the challenge of unifying art and space and excels in capturing, though not overtly, the rampant nostalgia of which we all presently partake.
According to Czech writer Milan Kundera, to remember means to forget. When you attempt to remember a certain moment that occurred in the past, the fragments of that particular moment might reside somewhere in your mind but these fragments are now altered because of your attempt to piece them together. You think you’re remembering the real moment exactly as it was, and yet in that act of remembering many details are forgotten. This act of remembering is expressed meticulously in Ashley Czajkowski’s Expose, which is composed of multiple silver gelatin prints that obscure and reveal a woman’s bare legs. In each print, the lightening is either too dark to see the legs or the frame’s cover cuts off the legs at the knees or just above them. In a similar manner, memory creates multiple versions of a moment, yet no version is entirely lucid.
Nostalgia takes this act of remembering one step further and implements the past in the present, either on an individual or collective scale. As the fragments begin to crack and fall apart under the heavy weight of the present, we ameliorate our forgetting by reenacting the past moment in the present. Instead of merely going back into the past, we bring the past into the present. In Constance McBride’s Lonely Girl-Room 121, these memory fragments have already cracked and fallen on the floor in the form of black and white keepsakes, leaving behind a clay bust of an aged woman. McBride establishes before us the aftermath of nostalgia, of a resurrected past that failed to redeem the loss of time.
Danielle Wood’s ceramic sculptures Bouquet for the Pensive, Bouquet for the Pensive II, and Lace could be thought of as foils to McBride’s Lonely Girl sculpture in terms of the positive versus the detrimental side effects of nostalgia. Though fragmented, the ceramic sculptures, with their organic folds and sprouting organisms, suggest a shedding of the old and an optimistic movement towards a new beginning. Nostalgia often takes root when the present is unsatisfactorily and the past simultaneously becomes a beacon of better times and of better possibilities. It is no wonder then that in our current time nostalgia prevails, whether in pop culture (Star Wars), politics (Regan conservatism or the Clinton presidency), or on our phones (Instagram filters). With uncertainty and instability dominating our daily lives, nostalgia is a natural recourse.
The yearning for a happier past is epitomized in Ellen Nementz’s four Nostalgia oil paintings of lush green landscapes, with glimmering water and tranquil hills, untouched by human industry. While three of the paintings are hung on the wall, the other painting is placed and displayed on a chair. In positioning the painting this way, Nementz is treating nostalgia not as a mere sentimental, representational scene but as an active object of familiarity and comfort, as though the viewer could sit on the chair, lean back against the painting and envision that he or she is leaning against a tree in the idyllic landscape.
The concept of active nostalgia is likewise conveyed in Cherie Buch-Hutchinson’s photograph The Shunned Say Hello from Lake Michigan, in which the past infiltrates a family dinner through the imposition of transparent figures in an eerie, cerebral atmosphere of green and grey hues. This kind of haunting imagery is ubiquitous in most of the works in the exhibition, either hidden or apparent, and central to nostalgia’s grip on our present condition.