Community, Features

“Fertile Solitude” reveals importance of self-reflection in creative art exhibits

The Boston Center for the Arts is showing the "Fertile Solitude" art exhibit at the Mills Gallery through December. PHOTO BY TYLA PINK/ DAILY FREE PRESS CONTRIBUTOR
The Boston Center for the Arts is showing the “Fertile Solitude” art exhibit at the Mills Gallery through December. PHOTO BY TYLA PINK/ DAILY FREE PRESS CONTRIBUTOR

Every now and then, many say society needs to step away from the conventional world and become immersed in spaces that give people the chance to look inward. Luckily, a temporary void of whimsical, thought-provoking sights can be found just a short journey away.

“Fertile Solitude” is Boston Center for the Arts’ most recent exhibit at their Mills Gallery, revealed on Friday. Each season, the BCA invites artists to curate shows based on contemporary ideas, according to the Boston Center for the Arts website.

Elizabeth Devlin, curator of “Fertile Solitude” and art consultant, said her sources of inspiration for the exhibit were her quest to achieve homeostasis, the notebooks of French philosopher Albert Camus, British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and a study done at the University of Virginia that discovered that people would rather endure an electric shock than sit in contemplation for 15 minutes.

“I went to the Storm King Art Center in New York last year and hoped to have a one-on-one moment with the sculptures, but was unable to because the visitors kept taking selfies,” Devlin said. “It made me think about how we take in information as a society. ‘Fertile Solitude’ came from the kernel of creating an individual, interactive, engaging and accessible gallery experience.”

Randi Hopkins, the associate director of Visual Arts Programs at the BCA, said she hopes visitors understand how art can guide them through difficult times.

“It should help you to contextualize architecture, nature, ideas of personal identity and how we connect with each other,” Hopkins said. “This is how we find ways to regenerate and how we find a sense of self in a really complicated environment.”

The exhibit features work from 15 different artists whose histories and unique visual languages tell their individual stories.

There is no common theme or origin that ties the works of each artist together, but there is a unifying emphasis on the individual. The exhibit is structured in a maze formation, allows visitors to freely navigate the work and create an individual experience depending on where and how far they decide to go.

“This is my first time going to an art show, and I had a really good experience at this one,” said Ana Calderon, a junior at Bunker Hill Community College. “This show is so different. I thought all of the work was really unique.”

Rather than presenting just one type of media, “Fertile Solitude” exhibited several original ideas. Some of the artwork included photo series, an installation made of various lamps, textiles of screen caps from adult videos and a remake of the Manneken-Pis, a fountain originally found in Brussels.

“The artwork really forced you to stop, stare and reckon with sexual acts, the state in which we leave our rooms, our moments of solitude and our choice to be vague or open about the things we choose to do with our time,” said Naya Joseph, a sophomore at Boston College.

Devlin said she didn’t have expectations of what visitors should take away from the show, but said she greatly valued the perspective of visitors. Sharing and creating a dialogue was vital to the meaning of the show, Devlin said.

“People have responded to the concept, and the execution of it has created that dialogue among the visitors,” she said. “There are things they experienced that I didn’t factor into my curation.”

With the drastic events of the past year, Devlin said she believes the concept of the art show helped to soothe audience members.

“Many people have been looking for an escape from what has been happening this year,” she said. “The show applies to everyone and speaks to how we live in society and operate in the world.”

The purpose of “Fertile Solitude” was to present art in a unique environment that rewards curiosity, Hopkins said, but it also created a way for individuals to confront feelings about the world.

“The show has many layers, with connections to architecture and our environment,” Hopkins said. “It’s also about how we build up these environments and what we think about when we’re alone.”


  1. Andy A. Pink, MPA, LNHA

    Well written!

  2. 15 artists in a show, not one mentioned by name.