“These works are small scale visual odes to the power and terror of the ocean,” Boston artist Kathy Bitetti writes of her exhibition of collages “The Sea Hates a Coward” at Gallery Kayafas in Boston from April 22 to May 28, 2022.
The 45 small collages (the biggest is 11 inches wide) are a covid pandemic project inspired by 15 quotes she’s collected about the sea, as well as the second-hand frames in which they’re displayed. The exhibition title is from Eugene O’Neill’s 1931 play “Mourning Becomes Electra.” Bitetti writes that the collages draw from her mapping projects, “Crossings: Massachusetts-Malta (2009-2019)” and “Crossings: Emerson Was Here (Boston),” about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1832 journey aboard a cargo ship from Boston to Malta. “This was the trip that transformed Emerson into the “Emerson” the world knows,” Bitetti writes.
A quote from celebrated surfer Buzzy Trent—“Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear”—accompanies visual riffs on Katsushika Hokusai’s 1830s woodblock print “The Great Wave” (also known as “Under the Wave Off Kanagawa.”
“All of the collages either have a photographic image I took in January 2021 of the Atlantic Ocean in Boston or an image of the Mediterranean Ocean that I took in Valletta in February 2019 during my residency in Malta with Valletta Contemporary” Bitetti writes. “The Mediterranean continues to claim the lives of countless migrants trying to make their way to Europe and historically many lives have been lost in the Atlantic Ocean.”
“I have always lived near the ocean—so close that I could always see it when I walked out my front door,” Bitetti writes. “I don’t think I could ever live far from its shores. In 2020, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was lucky to be able to take daily walks by the Atlantic Ocean. I continue to be lucky to be able to take these walks as the global pandemic continues.”
“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark?” Bitetti quotes the filmmaker Werner Herzog. “It would be like sleep without dreams.”
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