At SPACE, Doubt makes you look twice — and then look again | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

At SPACE, Doubt makes you look twice — and then look again

Every piece is more at second sight

Diane Samuels’ “Moby Dick” (detail)
Diane Samuels’ “Moby Dick” (detail)
Doubt, at SPACE gallery, initially seems designed to unsettle. No captions mark the 15 pieces of artwork. Nothing fits together in form or topical reference, other than the abstract theme “doubt.” An awkward, giant work in blue paper sprawls from the ceiling onto the floor, and you have no idea what to make of it.

Down the hall is a room usually reserved for an introspective piece or short film; it seems to glow red. It’s all part of Diane Samuel’s “Scheherazade.” Eerie human chatter plays over a speaker; on a nearby table, Arabian Nights sits beside a magnifying glass, and an intricately designed paper tapestry hangs with golden trim and a hypnotic crimson center, a magic carpet. The effect is mystifying.

Sometimes you just need a way in; for me, magic does it every time. A quick consultation with the docent revealed the huge blue-paper construction that stumped me as Samuel’s other piece, “Moby Dick.” A gallery handout reads “hand-transcription” and, sure enough, Samuels has hand-written the entirety of Melville’s novel on the blue paper in tiny cursive script, just as she had written Arabian Nights on the tapestry in what I had mistaken for golden trim.

Every piece in curator Nadine Wasserman’s Doubt is more at second sight. Lenka Clayton’s photography in “Moons From Nextdoor” almost convinces as Earth’s moon, until the third lightbox reveals the baseball’s double-stitching. Mary Temple’s “We’re All Pink on the Inside” is a portrait series of female politicians. How high the tiny portraits sit on the page displays how much Temple trusts what each subject says in the quote written beneath.

Abstraction is well represented. Temple’s “Terrible Swift Sword” is in pastels, with brushstrokes imitating the movement of a sword. Gina Occhiogrosso’s “This Could Be Good or Bad” depicts a type of cyclone, either pulling shards into the center or spiraling them out in explosion.

Melinda McDaniel’s “Four Years” worth of plexiglass calendars is another favorite; the endless reasoning behind how we organize our lives creates doubt as well as hope for the future. As Wasserman’s essay notes, “Doubt opens the door to new ways of perceiving.” No matter where you come from, or how you find your way into the conversation, doubt is a healthy and often necessary place to begin.

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