Self-Storage by Beverly Peterson, at TSL in Hudson

A room with many pieces of cardboard

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Chaos, Video projection mapping and AI animation splash around large and small white cardboard boxes; these display facets of the memories and experiences that are hard to relinquish.

Artist Beverly Peterson has been squirreling away the components of Self-Storage in her studio over several years—collecting, modifying, situating, upending, and repositioning things, paintings, photographs, video, and film. She describes this work as a “deeply personal, emotional, and immersive experience that invites visitors to reflect on their own memories as they explore a dreamlike environment.” It is that, but that’s like describing a particular person as an “ambulating biped with hair.” There’s more.

One enters the portal of this site-specific installation at Time & Space Limited in Hudson by parting a long canvas curtain. Here, one finds an initially dim space containing a lot of what seems to be chaos.

One’s eyes accommodate slowly to see a 25’x 40’ room full of white cardboard boxes, metal shelves, banners, and curtains with projected painted images— accumulations of a life—and we cannot help but recall our own stacked-up boxes and overfull drawers and attics which by definition cannot contain the whole of any life. Immediately to the left of the cloth portal is a doll house on top of large white boxes. Inside, we see a room with a tiny projected video of Peterson’s 102-year-old mother. She is propped up in bed; Peterson explains a computer app to her. It is terribly poignant and calls to mind our own mothers.

In the adjacent dollhouse room is a projection of children playing with abandon. One is the artist as a girl, and other children are playing here, too, on small monitors partially contained in boxes across the room.  Fancy free? Poignant? Right next to the dollhouse there is a proscenium stage with three wide stairs, on which are projected waves at the ocean shore. 

A group of buildings on a beach

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OceanStairs: The images that pour over the boxes include those by painter Farrell Brickhouse (Peterson’s husband) and her video diaries of their life together in Montauk, Tribeca, Staten Island, and Hudson.

We hear repeating, repeating, repeating sounds of these waves, and we are transported to the beach—Sublime!  A larger wall perpendicular to these stairs also reveals projections of ocean and breaking waves. White cardboard boxes are strewn about which serve as irregular faceted screens for projected film and video. High metal shelves in front of this beach hold stacks of boxes full of nondescript paper and things. Some are labeled, and many are not. Banners with projected looped video of boxes silently tumbling through space are seen at the margins of the beaches. Projected beach grass wafts on a monitor across the room. Objects are cast about—a French horn, candlesticks, and toys. Near the beach, a video projection of a man—Peterson’s husband (the painter Farrell Brickhouse)—dragging a cart full of boxes into a storage facility. We hear the sounds of those heavy wheels on the metal floor. 

What seems at first to be haphazard falls like sediment into layers of individuals, spaces, and places, a life that opens, as it does, over years–and eventually gets packed away into storage. And particularly in a move, our storage boxes are packed in an accelerating rush, introducing yet new chaos into our world that wasn’t previously acknowledged—except, perhaps, in dreams. Our dreams admit to this trauma—which may be why we forget dreams, often forcefully. If we dare to reopen those storage boxes, we can find ourselves clinging anew to things that we can scarcely bear to look at. Self Storage makes these memories present and vivid. 

Life does not happen in order to make sense, and the ocean shore’s obsessive mantra allows us to take that in. Long study, experimentation, and tinkering were required to bring these unseeable memories to light. This work qualifies, I think, as sublime—in that here, the beautiful is intertwined with the terrifying. It gives us a shudder, but also the frissons that come with waves of the true and the beautiful.

Courtesy of @TSL

Beverly Peterson’s exhibition at TSL closes on Monday March 4, 2024

About the writer: Sandra Moore lives in Hudson New York. She is a painter and has recently returned to filmmaking, after a long caesura to practice medicine. Currently, she is working on a film about the nature of sleep, based primarily on observing her mind and visual field as she ventures into sleep. She also writes about artists working upstate, especially supporting those who create ephemeral artworks such as performances and transitory installations.