A little over a year ago, Cleveland native and experimental installation artist Mona Gazala opened Second Sight Studio in her Franklinton home. It’s rare to find an art gallery in someone’s residence, but Gazala loves having a plethora of art around, and it makes for a welcoming identity.
“Oh my gosh! It’s such a great experience to be able to get up in the morning and know that I’m living with all this,” Gazala said.
“Miracle on Bellows Ave.,” the current group exhibition at Second Site Studio, was another successful opening last Saturday that included music by DJ Raymond Schwab, a spoken word performance by Ara Hawkins and a dance performance by Roman Sirotin and Jennifer Gordon.
“It seems people are just at ease here. It’s more of a family get-together,” Gazala said.
It’s noteworthy that Gazala mentions a familial atmosphere about Second Sight Studio because her installation in “Miracle” is characterized by the importance of family, since Gazala’s two sons are still in Cleveland.
Gazala said, after visiting Columbus a number of times and attending art events since 2009, that she had an “intuitive sense” this was the place she needed to be. But the move happened quicker than expected and being away from her sons is obviously challenging.
“It was a little traumatic to move … that separation is weighing on me and this piece was especially about that,” Gazala said.
The installation features a number of mummy-centric pieces varying in size. Gazala has been a “pseudo-archeologist” since she was six years old and it’s a concept always running through her work. She also ties in personal or modern themes with the archeological aspect. The best example of this cohesion is the large mummy piece that hangs from the ceiling in an upstairs room created using remnants of a gutted Franklinton home.
“It also talks about my family and my children, and having been displaced as a single mother,” Gazala said. “[The materials] speak to being displaced; if something was part of a home and then having been ripped out of it.”
While Gazala’s installation on the second floor has a somber tone, the works downstairs serve as a counterbalance by being colorful, vibrant and fun pop art. The artists participating in “Miracle” are Joss Parker (who also curated the exhibit) Andrea Fox, Arlo Moon, Christopher Cropper, Alexi Franciscus Vlaar, W.E. Arnold, Donna McCarty-Estep, Jimbo Tamoro and Vincent Powell. Each one’s work features an energy that bursts out of the pieces, whether it’s from panache of design or subject matter.
Many of the paintings feature pop culture icons — everything from classic images of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe to modern in “Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle or “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!” There are also a number of records painted with legendary musicians (John Lennon, Prince, Janis Joplin) and other pop culture figures (“The Walking Dead” characters, Slimer, Marlon Brando). Other works are more abstract, surreal and maybe a little darker in theme, but convey a similar pop or street art sensibility.
“There are some really fun pieces in here. That’s what I really enjoy about this show; it’s fun and it’s bright downstairs,” Gazala said. “I [like] that I can use this gallery to highlight different styles of artwork, and give different offerings to people in this neighborhood.”
For Gazala, Franklinton specifically, and the Columbus arts community as a whole, offers the opportunity to become a part of something special. She feels the manner in which her novel concept for a gallery has been embraced is both impressive and heartwarming. And that inspired her to find new ways to showcase art.
“[Columbus is] open to new ideas and starting new things like this gallery. I’m really pleased with the amount of support I’ve been getting,” Gazala said. “There’s so much potential for this street … I’ve got plans for developing different outdoor events in the [now closed Bellows Avenue School] parking lot across the street.”
Second Sight Studio has open gallery hours from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, but anyone interested in viewing the “Miracle” exhibit can contact Gazala to schedule an alternate time. She’s happy to open the door and make you feel right at home.