As you approach the door of the Haze Gallery (6635 N. Baltimore), you see a gracefully winding yellow brick road, just like theone Dorothy trod. This one, however, is made of mustard packagesfrom takeout joints. A sign at the door tells you that only thoseunder a certain size — for example, Dorothy’s Toto — can actuallystep on it.
Artist Chandra Bocci’s “Bubble Speak” is an installation made ofpackages in a bubble, loosely stated. Bubbled mustards from takeoutand Otter Pops in blue, red and yellow. Bocci takes edibles (andother things) of your childhood and turns them into art.
The Haze Gallery is large, and Bocci fills it beautifully, usingthe colors of plastic packaging to create light and sweeping formsacross the space. While her technical challenges might be on yourmind, they don’t overwhelm you. She’s not about her hard work.She’s about the fun in all the small things thrown at us everyday.
She had her technical challenges cut out for her, though. Theartist confessed that she slept in the space for a week and a halfbefore the opening, working nonstop. Her process was importantenough to her to document via photography and various emails. Howit was made, and the time that it took, is something you canappreciate.
As soon as it goes on the sky blue walls — or in her case, fromthe ground to the air, like surround-sound — one has the option toaccess the art on a purely aesthetic level. Bocci’s fun equalsbeauty as the light plays into the multicolored forms of edibleice. The mustards looked like Italian tiles, almost ancient. Whilemessages and narrative could have their place in her work, theartist declares that composition is where it’s at: “Basically, I’mpainting in space.”
Installation, while being decades old, still presents challengesto the viewer. Almost everyone hovered outside the space, groupedaround drinks or other areas. People walked in, of course, but theywalked out, as if having conversation in this environment would beuncomfortable. If the walls held a line of paintings, would peoplestay inside the gallery? What makes a group of clearly dedicated,art-hungry fans (this is, after all, all the way out in St. Johns)afraid to be inside the gallery with the art?
This is the last show at the Haze Gallery in the presentlocation. Gallery directors Jack Shimko and Leah Emkin have done agreat job of shaking up Portland. Consistency is perhaps their mostremarkable achievement. In only one year the Haze proved that thewell of unrepresented artists in Portland is far more sophisticatedthan the town would admit. This gallery will have a big bash onHalloween before it closes and that will also give you anotherchance to check out the work of Chandra Bocci. It is rumored thatat this party you will be able to finally walk down the yellowbrick road and squash the hell out of the mustard packs.