Next: Joseph Fontinha, Robert Todd & Deb Todd Wheeler

NEXT features core artist Joseph Fontinha and guest artists Robert Todd & Deb Todd Wheeler and will run from February 27th through March 31st in the main gallery. An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 1st from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Below Joseph and Deb share their connection, artistic practice and what lead to the exhibition.

Joseph Fontinha

A couple of years ago, I ran into Deb when I had my pop-up show at Fountain Street. Deb was very enthusiastic about my most recent body of work. I originally met Deb as an undergraduate at Mass Art (she was a professor) and then later (25 years later… ) when getting my MFA at Lesley, and throughout all these years she has been one of my biggest supporters. While we were discussing my work in the MAKING A PAINTING: THE BLUE TARP PROJECT, she said plainly, “let me know if I can do anything.”

I immediately responded with, “You could show with me.”

Now ( some two years later) and since the recent losses of Deb’s son and brother-Lucas and Rob, we are somehow here. Through out these life trials and though her own perseverance, strength, as well as her commitment to mentorship and teaching we are about to fulfill (what is for me) an incredibly meaningful collaboration.  One that has been a masterclass in exhibiting, in curating your own work, in the balance between making and presenting, and in the effort to keep an exhibit aligned with what is very spontaneously practice of making art.

I have never been prouder to share a gallery with someone.  Our work comes together with its inclusion of performance, body-centricity, non-traditional materials, use of technology and appreciation for play.  I think we both work hard to be the first viewer of our own work. Raw materials, fresh ideas, and a willingness to learn in the process of making have been hallmarks for our work.

When Deb started sharing with me the work she was doing with Rob when he died, I knew that this work had to be central to the exhibit, and i started to think much more like a curator than a participating artist.  It became important for me in some way to look forward at what this work could mean for myself and others. The question of what is “NEXT” was always there, but it is a daunting one for two people working so hard to be truly in the moment.

Deb Todd Wheeler

Orbit is a good word to build upon for this statement about NEXT, as Joseph and I have been in each other’s orbits for close to 2 decades as artists in the Boston area. When I first saw his blue tarp project on Instagram, my brain ignited. He’s using bits of tape and whatever is lying around to make these sublime tiny animations. You know, when Rob and I collaborate, WE use whatever is lying around! Engaging the eye, and the body (for me and Rob, the body as an extension of the camera, for Joseph, the body does a whole different thing!). In both our practices, there is a glee in seeing something possible and sublime in everyday things. it’s not about the materials themselves so much as what world we can conjure with the simplest gesture.  

ECLIPSE and SOL are video projections made by Rob Todd and Deb Todd Wheeler, as part of a project they collaborated on for several years called Artificial Atmospheres. They were working together right up until Rob’s death August 2018.

Both videos look to the heavens. Filmed on this spinning planet of ours, they reminding us that no matter how dark things get, the sun will always rise again tomorrow. Eclipse features simply a metal garbage can that becomes planetary through the use of a single light source while SOL projects video clips of the sun onto a dusty piece of plexiglass suspended from the ceiling. The light from the sun reflects off the plexi, and slowly makes its way around the room, a motion that puts the gallery in its own kind of orbit.

SUNRISE is the third video Deb is showing. Planned, but unfinished at the time of Rob’s death, she has finished it for this show with Joseph.