Father-daughter exhibit: Doug and Mia Cross of Framingham

by Chris Bergeron, Daily News Correspondent
June 3, 2018
Read the original review here.

Mia and Doug Cross with Mia's painting "The Color Blues I Would Miss Most if I Went Blind, Part 2" and Doug's sculpture "9 to 5"

Mia and Doug Cross with Mia's painting "The Color Blues I Would Miss Most if I Went Blind, Part 2" and Doug's sculpture "9 to 5"

BOSTON - Like lots of fathers and daughters, Doug and Mia Cross don’t always agree on complex issues like trust, anxiety and what makes a home.

So, the very different Framingham artists have transformed their varying perspectives on just about everything into intriguing art now displayed at Fountain Street Gallery (FSG), relocated to Boston’s South End.

For their new exhibit, “Crossover,” they have separately created distinctive works of art in response to six identical word prompts such as “trust” and “moon,” “painted” and “home,” randomly selected from suggestions by a small group of family and friends.

Together, Doug and Mia Cross are showing 24 works including oil paintings, installations, figurative wood carvings, assemblages and other works that sometimes blur the boundaries of traditional genres.

Individually, their works are striking for their originality, ingenuity and subversive wit.

“The show is based on the unique concept that reveals the similarities and differences in a father’s and daughter’s artwork,” said Mia Cross. “The perspectives of two different generations come to light. Where do they align?”

When viewed as the responses of a 62-year-old father and his 26-year-old daughter, they reveal the changing attitudes and creative styles of artists from the same family but different generations.

"Escape" by Doug Cross

"Escape" by Doug Cross

"Homebody" by Mia Cross

"Homebody" by Mia Cross

For example, responding to the prompt word “home,” Mia painted a 4-by-6 1/2-foot oil of herself cuddling her cat, a furry Maine coon named Sadie, bordered by rows of poppies. Born during the nuclear paranoia of the Cold War, Doug Cross fashioned “Escape,” a stark wire and wood sculpture of a child-like figure shinnying up a television antenna to find solace in escapist shows like “Andy of Mayberry” scripted to comfort the jittery masses.

Viewed separately, each work reveals the artistic responses of artists at different stages of their lives, using different materials to express their personal views.

Like looking into a shifting kaleidoscope, viewers can consider how succeeding generations of artists express their reactions to concepts that mean different things to them.

“Push” a sculpture by Doug Cross in front of Mia Cross' “The Color Blues I Would Miss Most If I Went Blind, Part 1”

“Push” a sculpture by Doug Cross in front of Mia Cross' “The Color Blues I Would Miss Most If I Went Blind, Part 1”

Responding to the prompt “anxiety,” the Crosses, working separately in the same workshop, created multilayered pieces that evoke the distinctive states-of-mind of artists who came of age in different eras, yet both worrying about government intrusion and environmental collapse.

When visitors press the red button beneath a lens in Doug Cross’ 6-inch-square metal box titled “Push,” after a brief pause they hear the electric sound of a camera’s clicking shutter like J. Edgar Hoover is recording their dreams.

On adjoining 6-by-3-foot canvases, Mia Cross’s enigmatic “The Color Blues I Would Miss Most If I Went Blind” challenges visitors to view small rectangles of varying shades of blue like Rorschach ink blots that suggest irredeemable loss.

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses" by Doug Cross

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses" by Doug Cross

Reacting to the word prompt “Trust,” Doug Cross’s “most politicized” wire and cloth sculpture of Old Glory covered by wire mesh suggests the mistrust of a man who grew up in the age of Watergate.

His daughter’s 5-by-7-foot seemingly unfinished self-portrait titled “Blank World” suggests the elusive complications of growing up in the digital age where nothing is permanent until it can be preserved on Facebook.

Descended from a long line of artists and makers who fashioned everything from whirligigs to music machines, Doug Cross has been painting and creating interactive sculptures for years in the garage workshop he now shares with his daughter in their Gleason Pond home in Framingham.

For 20 years he has shown his work in area galleries, including Fountain Street, seeking to balance his creative impulses with his “real job” as a corporate trainer.

Mia Cross burst on the local arts scenes like a Roman candle since graduating from Boston University in 2014 with a double major in painting and sculpture.

"Blank World" (detail) by Mia Cross

"Blank World" (detail) by Mia Cross

Last year Danforth Art awarded her their “Emerging Artist Award.” Cross has received multiple grants and participated in several artist residencies, including spending time at the Vermont Studio Center and a month in 2016 as artist-in-residence at the Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester.

Mia Cross’ 140-foot mural of human eyes titled “We the People II” enlivens the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston.

Mia Cross said she and her father hope their work “appeals to artists and non-artists in that it highlights the subtle and not to subtle influences that are passed down from parent to child which any family can relate to.”

Gallery director Marie Craig said, “I think Mia and Doug have created very special work for this show.”

“From their vastly different experiences, they have made distinct art that still reveals the influence of several generations of artists in their family. We’re very excited by the prospect of showing work by these Framingham artists in Boston,” she said.

The Crosses are among about 60 artists, formerly affiliated with the gallery when it was housed in the Bancroft Building on Fountain Street in Framingham, who have followed it to its new home in Boston’s SoWa arts district.

Established in 2011 by Craig and Cherie Clinton, of Natick and Holliston, respectively, in the first floor of the Bancroft Building, Fountain Street Gallery, like the artists it featured, was forced to find a new home with short notice when town officials closed the building to the public for safety reasons.

After looking for local sites, Craig said she and Clinton “took advantage of an opportunity to come to Boston to be a conduit for MetroWest artists to show their work to a broader audience.”

“The Day I Accidentally Vacuumed Up the Moon” by Mia Cross

“The Day I Accidentally Vacuumed Up the Moon” by Mia Cross

“Even though our physical space has moved, our roots are proudly in Framingham. Many of our fans and collectors are from MetroWest,” said Craig. “When they visit the gallery in Boston, our patrons tell us how thrilled they are to see that we continue to support many of the talented artists from Framingham and MetroWest, like Mia and Doug Cross.”

Even when responding to different prompts, the Crosses works are sometimes like Zen riddles that tease your brain to think in new ways.

Their work, Mia Cross said, “shows that creativity can be expressed in boundless ways.”

Like Emily Dickinson’s gem-like poems, Mia Cross’s multi-part installation “The Day I Accidentally Vacuumed Up the Moon” seems to say, “You have got to look more than once.”

Feed the token into Doug Cross’ metallic sculpture, “9 to 5,” that resembles a condom dispenser in a factory restroom and the sound you will hear will be totally unexpected but makes perfect sense.

Like “Crossover.”

“Crossover: Doug Cross and Mia Cross. A father-daughter show”
WHEN: Through July 1, 2018
WHERE: Fountain Street Gallery, 460c Harrison Ave., #2, Boston
HOURS: Noon to 6 p.m Wednesday-Sunday
INFO: 617-292-4900; fsfaboston.com