It’s best to start this piece by confessing that I’ve yet to watch a single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Smallville, Veronica Mars or one of the Harry Potter franchise movies. The Big Bad, according to Wikipedia and several pop-culture blogs is a term that originated in the show Buffy. It refers to that "Big Bad" character that usually dominates one episode or an entire season of a show—the root of all evil, the cause of all bad happenings.
Currently at the Nave Gallery in Somerville is a show that offers an artist’s vision of the Big Bad. Curated by Jenn Harrington, the exhibition seeks to explore, according to the call-to-artists, the "true representations of foes that wreck our homes, our health, our families, and our childhoods."
The work of 16 local and regional artists are exhibited—including three artists featured in Harrington’s last show, The Beast in Me--Johnny Cash: Art Influenced by the Struggle of a Man. Pop culture and music have been recurring influences in Harrington’s work as curator, and this exhibit even has its own soundtrack featuring many local bands.
Martha McCollough’s enamel paintings brought me back to the 1960s. To me, they resembled comic strips but with titles like "Strange Invaders," "Everlasting," and "Wasteland," they elicited inner childhood conflicts and violent actions (this could be my very own Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode). McCollough’s work in this show unleashed an invisible monster that kept me coming back for more, and I wasn’t afraid of it. Joe Keinberger’s illustrations of otherworldly, fuzzy creatures paired well with McCollough’s paintings. They’re expressionistic illustrations with exaggerated and intense lines—the type of illustrations one might find in a dark fairy tale book.
Recovering lawyer turned painter Geoffrey Stein’s collaged paintings are about more visible forces. With three works in the show, Stein creates hostility and tension between the viewer and the subject with his portraits of Tim Geithner, Bernie Madoff and Alan Greenspan. They’re composed of Wall Street Journal articles or in the case of the Madoff portrait, complaints against him from the Securities Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. It’s maddening to be constantly reminded of economic situation we’re in, yet I felt an immense pleasure indulging in Stein’s unforgiving representation of these three men.
There’s quite a bit of photography in this show and Reid Elem’s work stood out for me given the subject they treat. Elem’s series Omnipresence explores consumer electronics and how we as a society have come to rely on these to communicate and build relationships. Or so we think. Instead we’ve turned into narcissistic individuals looking for ways to gain the validity of others. The works in this series are a bit humorous, but this fades quickly. They’re a sobering reminder of how we’ve let technology dictate how we live our lives and the way we connect with one another.
The Nave Gallery
"The Big Bad" is on view October 6-28, 2012 at The Nave Gallery.
The Nave is open Saturday and Sunday 1-5PM.