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Our bodies, our selves
‘Somatic Scales’ at the Mills Gallery and ‘Projet Mobilivre — Bookmobile Project’ in Cambridge and Roxbury
BY RANDI HOPKINS

Nancy Bowen, Eruction


I SING the Body electric" are the opening words of Walt Whitman’s 1855 poem of the same title, a poem that begins with the idea of the incorruptible wholeness of the body ("The love of the Body of man or woman balks account — the body itself balks account"), then goes on to celebrate in itty bitty detail many facets of many bodies, producing what feels like a scrumptious accounting of the whole universe of bodies. Whitman’s approach to what we might now call "imaging the body" is a sprawling, sexy laundry list, whereas we, inhabiting the century of CAT scans, computer imaging, Chuck Close, and Kiki Smith, may see it all a bit differently. Whitman’s intense survey of nature’s forms is up close and personal, but a new exhibition posits the idea that modern methods and technologies have radically affected our perspective on the body. "Somatic Scales," guest-curated by Patricia C. Phillips and opening at the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts next Friday, presents work by five artists who explore the idea of "scale" — as in scale models, or the Richter scale — and its role in how we picture our bodies, creating in the process a new visual taxonomy that is as often eccentric as exact in reproducing aspects of the physical self.

"Somatic Scales" presents work in a variety of media. Sculptural-installation artist Audrey Goldstein has in the past has used an array of materials from plastic tubing to aluminum screening to fashion complex invented networks that evoke circulatory systems, electrical circuits, and/or blood transfusions. Nancy Bowen makes glass, steel, and wood sculpture using scale to create analogies between the interior landscape of the body and the exterior landscape of what she calls "the familiar ‘lived in’ world," from pottery and furniture to architecture. Randy Garber, Nancy Manter, and Ann Messner also contribute to the topic, discoursing on the complexity of a notion we tend to take for granted, that of "human scale."

If all this sweaty physicality makes you itch to take art into your own hands, you’re in luck. This weekend — May 28, 29 and 30 — the ubiquitous Truth Serum Productions, described at gendertalk.com as "a program of gender queer events by and for big-brained people in the Boston area," brings us "Projet Mobilivre — Bookmobile Project," a big vintage Airstream bookmobile filled with at least 300 one-of-a-kind ’zines and artist books that travels throughout the US and Canada (hence the bi-lingual name, non?). Presented in collaboration with four grass-roots Boston art organizations — the Berwick Research Institute, the Center for New Words, the Handstand Command, and Zeitgeist Gallery — this blimpy, retro motor home is coming to a neighborhood near you not only to bring its singular wares for your perusal but also to offer curbside workshops. On Friday at 7 p.m., there’ll be a ’zine-making workshop for "self-identified" women and girls at the Center for New Words. On Saturday at 1 p.m., there’ll be an accordion-book and flip-book workshop at Zeitgeist Gallery (all sexes welcome); Sunday at noon brings a bookbinding workshop at the Berwick Research Institute. All events are free, but workshop participants are encouraged to sign up in advance at Truth Serum’s Web site, www.truthserum.org. After you’ve caught the shiny Airstream on the Web, you’ll want to see how it’s been fitted out for its artful road tour!

"Somatic Scales" is at the Mills Gallery in the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street in the South End, June 4 through August 1, with a free opening reception on June 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. and a gallery talk with the curator and artists on June 5 at 1 p.m.; call (617) 426-8835. "Projet Mobilivre — Bookmobile Project" is in Cambridge and Roxbury from May 28 through May 30; visit www.truthserum.org for event and sign-up information.


Issue Date: May 28 - June 3, 2004
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