Installation View, “Small Worlds of the Claiming Moon,” (courtesy of Alex Patrick Dyck)

The scene is reminiscent of something between a shanty town and an art fair of sorts. A few weeks ago, Johnson Avenue gallery Signal was transformed into the site of Small Worlds of the Claiming Moon, an installation mounted and produced by the loose artist collective Noodle Beaches for Meeting Witches. The opening, which coincided with the July 11th “super moon,” was a veritable love fest, with throngs of art-lovers and joy-seekers celebrating this rare event surrounded by site-specific shrine-like installations, forties, and a backyard bonfire. The exhibition is a departure for the gallery, which is usually produces tightly curated and more reserved exhibitions, but nothing more perfectly embraces the energy and zeitgeist of a Bushwick summer than this celebration of loosely-bound individual expression that is Noodle Beaches.

Dana Wood Zinsser’s Masterful watermelon tent

Typically when you go to a gallery, even in Bushwick, there is a line of demarcation between you, the viewer, and the art object. Completely demolishing this barrier, the installations in Small Worlds are meant to be interacted with. Walking through the crowded space the night of the opening, artists and friends were sitting inside the different spaces, passing around fifth of vodka, eating watermelon, sitting on top of the structures, dancing and playing music. Within each structure you would encounter a new world completely separate yet still a part of what was going on – synchronized chaos.

View from High Above

Near the middle of Signal’s massive gallery space, one hanging structure, comprised of what appears to be demolished and reconstituted crates, I noticed a pair of legs poking out from the center. I crawled under the structure to see what I was missing to find a half-burnt or obscured disco ball casting the most amazing light and shadow against the inside of the space. I joined this new friend and laid down, staring up at the eery, slowly spinning ball. Lying there, I was in the middle of all this chaos, sitting still as everything moved around me.

Jennifer Shear & Nicholas C-T’s Radiating Gold

Jennifer Shear & Nicholas C-T (courtesy of Alex Patrick Dyck)

Coming back to reality – I think my friend was saying my name, not knowing where I had disappeared to, I stood up with a dizzying return to the beautiful cacophony around me. Walking around the space, I began to start to see unifying elements between the various installations. What initially seemed unrelated began to be connected; each one was a safe place, a haven, a shrine.

After the opening, I had the opportunity to connect with Alex Patrick Dyck, one of the organizers of NBFMW. Alex started the project with friend Greem Jellyfish because they felt a lack of opportunity to represented as women in the existing art world armature.  Their shows and various collaborations comes together in a desire to give a voice to their group, both as individual artists and together, but Alex says she tends to shy away from the word collective. “To me it seems slightly pretentious” she explains, “but maybe that’s because I see it misused and overused. I have been referring to us as a “crew” because we are bonded together more like a gang than a collective. Our work comes out of our relationships to each other as women, as friends, as artists and our relationship with nature and the mystical realm. In the beginning we were disorganized. We needed a core so that we could be stronger.” When I ask Alex where she and Greem came up with the name, she goes on to say, “we all bonded at the beach, shared food and drink, took our clothes off, got weird, made art and music, swam in our beloved ocean and soaked up the sun. So we knew that the concepts of Summer and the beach would be imbued in our vision. Greem came up with the name Noodle Beaches for Meeting Witches because it represented all of those things. It was a way to describe our community of women and artists, our spirituality and our experiences in nature.”

Darkened Disco Balls Still Make Light

I thought back to the opening for the event and staring up at that disco ball. This epitomized for me what the night, the crew, and the entire exhibition was embracing: in the middle of an ebbing and flowing crowd of people, all inspired and engaged in their various activities, their art, and their moment, there was a slowly turning moon that, although you couldn’t see directly, cast its light over it all.

Small Worlds of the Claiming Moon, an exhibition produced by Noodle Beaches for Meeting Witches, is on view through this weekend at Signal Gallery in Bushwick. There will be a closing reception for the show this Sunday, August 3rd, 6-10PM with a butoh performance by Beatrice Von Rague Schleyer and music by Andersonic.