Marin Museum of Contemporary Art provides both a serious take and a whimsical look at the world today

The Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), located in Novato, is currently offering meaningful and thought-provoking artwork about the current political climate, while also providing an entertaining and whimsical view of the world today.

Opening early last month, “My” and “BUG SUR” were two of the featured exhibits displayed. Being my first visit to this local gem, I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of the artwork.

The “My” exhibit is a statement against the controversial political climate as women struggle to figure out how much to reveal to the world. The combination of prints and silk are the result of artist Melissa Shanley’s five-month residency at MOCA. Each work features a detailed image of part of Shanley’s own body, which are neither erotic nor easily identifiable. Her purpose of creating the exhibit was to address the decision process a woman must make every day, whether consciously or unconsciously, of how much she should show to the world.

Shanley’s work resides in the right corner of MOCA, where five small lights gently illuminate the collection. Each piece depicts a close-up shot of her body from a different angle, ranging from a nose and eyelid to a bare shoulder. A silk overlay hangs directly in front of each print, displaying a duplicate image that matches the one placed on the wall behind it.

Of the four images, the one that caught my eye was the easiest to recognize: a close up of a chin and neck. The photo focused on Shanley’s physique and the contours of her face. Small details such as the tenseness in her facial expression and the wrinkles in her neck brought life to the piece by conveying Shanley’s reaction to the oppression and pressure women face. Lighter green hues in the background of the photo contrasted the darker brown colors of her skin. The print voiced her struggle with our current political climate and seemed to imply the dire need to empower women to take control of their lives.

Although the exhibit features only four prints, each conveyed a powerful message. The most creative and intriguing aspect is how the prints are presented, with one image concealing the other. At times, I was even tempted to pull back the silk piece to reveal what was behind it. Through Shanley’s reaction to Trump’s comments in the “Access Hollywood” tapes and her conversations with other women, this was the exact response she wanted to evoke, according to her artist statement. She wanted to open the discussion to the deeper, essential question of the issues women face today: how much is safe to reveal, both physically and emotionally?

Promoting a lighter and whimsical message, “BUG SUR” features Alex Nizovsky’s unique perspective on the hidden beauty of insects. Through his work as an artist, biologist and designer, Nizovsky created his exhibit by combining his experiences of photographing bugs and watching them in nature with his dreams and imagination. The final result is a collection of paintings that utilizes large-scale depictions to look past the fear and disgust of small bugs to reveal the fascinating, undiscovered micro world of these beautiful organisms.

Standing out amongst the dozens of paintings, a portrayal of an Inca beetle captured my attention with its bold, majestic colors. The bug was centered in the middle of the piece, displayed in multiple elegant shades of purple and surrounded by a blue, airy environment. It was not until I read the description provided that I realized the bug represented the ancient Inca God of Rain. The bug was floating off the ground while creating wind from its horns that commanded the rain. Nizovsky’s combination of a common insect with a powerful deity created an alluring artwork that truly shows the hidden beauty all bugs possess.

Additionally, the exhibit featured a sample of Nizovsky’s other works, such as comical takes on certain political leaders. A piece titled “Donnie Likes The Grasshoppers Singing” especially sparked my interest due to its humorous depiction of President Donald Trump. Bugs create a chaotic scene on his upper body and head, crawling up his shirt, leaping to and fro and even nesting in his disheveled hair. The painting mocks Trump’s ego and his desire to have overly perfect hair, degrading him to an ugly, green mess. Through all of this, Trump wears an unamused face and seems disgusted by the mayhem the insects are creating.

The exhibits are free admission and run through Feb. 25, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays and 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m on weekends. From understanding a female artist’s personal perspective on our political climate to appreciating the unique beauty of insects, the MOCA is a great way to experience contemporary art in our own community.

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