STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
What does “utopia” mean to you? That’s a question posed by a three-artist exhibit at Main Line Art Center (MLAC).
The “Modern Utopias” exhibit presents compelling visions of modern existence, human potential, and virtual realities through works by digital media artist Marjan Moghaddam, of New York; documentary photographer Noah Addis, of Columbus, Ohio; and printmaker and mixed media artist Nicole Patrice Dul, of Philadelphia, according to a press release.
The exhibit is the anchor for MLAC’s “Panorama: Image-Based Art in the 21st Century,” a two-month event celebrating the photographic image and its expansive role in contemporary art forms, including digital photography, printmaking, video, film, animation, and gaming design. The event, Sept. 12 through Nov. 4, will feature the exhibit, plus more than 15 programs, an evening festival, and portfolio reviews. It also offers audiences the opportunity to create digital artwork depicting their idea of utopia for a virtual exhibition.
MLAC exhibits traditional art, but is interested in exploring the artistic world of the 21st century, said executive director Amie Potsic. In curating “Modern Utopias,” she selected artists using photography in different ways. The tie that binds: looking at modern and future realities through each artist’s unique viewpoint and looking at how people are creating their own realities.
Addis photographed informal settlements in large cities, people creating their own realities that are sometimes recognized by authorities and sometimes not. Moghaddam created digital paintings with characters she calls digital avatars. There’s narrative, interaction, social commentary, politics, and more in her work, Potsic said, and she explores what a future reality could look like.
Dul photographs environments in decay, ruins, and portions of sanctioned cities that are falling apart, Potsic said. In her work, she uses a combination of sketches, photographs, and paint in prints and mixed media pieces.
Dul, in her first MLAC show, admires the work of Moghaddam and Addis and is excited to be included in the exhibit. In her exploration of abandoned places, she has talked to people in towns that have gone under, including some that used to thrive around coal mining.
“They thought this was how they were going to live. They were offered this false idea,” she said. “When it becomes abandoned, it’s almost unreal how terrible it looks. It’s almost a dystopia.”
When communities are torn down, people are left without jobs and places to go, and the vision is disintegrating, “that’s how I see modern utopia,” she said. “I don’t see it as a good thing. It’s an idealized thing that’s a lie.”
An undercurrent of sociology and politics runs through her art. She’s always been interested in that, she said. She likes to make pieces that are a bit generic and abstract, though, like “a symbol of a place, more symbolic of what’s happening in the world.”
Rather than being strictly representational, her work suggests more of a feeling, she said. She hopes that leads to conversations about whatever the work brings up for people. She doesn’t want to push her opinion, but to get a discussion going.
“I want to have people feel the way they want to feel about it,” she said. “And it’s neat to hear what other people have to say.”
Potsic agrees and hopes to hear lots of conversations happening at “Modern Utopias” and during “Panorama.” There’s a lot to talk about — digital and other contemporary art, how photography is evolving, and how those tools can be used to explore the world around us.
“We’re looking to the past and the future,” Potsic said.
IF YOU GO
What: “Modern Utopias” and “Panorama.”
When: Sept. 12-Nov. 4; “Modern Utopias” Artist Talk and Opening Reception, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 18.
Where: Main Line Art Center, 746 Panmure Road, Haverford.
Info.: Check www.mainlineart.org or call (610) 525-0272.
Note: “Panorama” also features Creative Partners from around the region offering events and programming. Visit MLAC’s website for more information.