Two weekend exhibitions at Second Sight offers disparate takes on environment, experience

On Saturday, Jan. 20, you can be in Franklinton and find out what it's like to then leave the neighborhood (mentally, at least) in two different ways via two different exhibitions at Second Sight Project.

Mona Gazala owns and operates the combination artist-in-residence/gallery space, and her “Home Town” exhibition of photography will be paired with “Color Experiment #1,” an installation by Second Sight resident artist Tala Kanani. The exhibits take place at Second Sight's Sullivant Avenue duplex.

Kanani, primarily a fabric/soft sculpture artist, will create her installation piece in the front room at 737 Sullivant Ave., taking full advantage of having an artist landlord to reconfigure the space, which will be subdivided into three small rooms, each saturated in a particular color and offering a particular experience. Each of these smaller spaces will offer an immersive experience unique to the visitors, who will be required to pass through one at a time.

“This is not only an experiment in experience, but also an experiment in art and installation,” Kanani said in an interview at Second Sight.

While Kanani doesn't want to prescribe the visitors' reactions, she has chosen carefully what kind of conditions each of the three small spaces will offer. Each will be color saturated — a violet room is based on the third eye chakra of Hindu tradition and is broadly themed “opening your mind”; a green space is based on the heart chakra, as well as the color of paradise in Islam, and focuses on cleansing; the final space is blue and based on the throat chakra.

“The idea came from the idea of escape, of escaping reality, escaping into [each space and being] taken out of this city, this neighborhood, this house, this reality and teleported to something else,” Kanani said. “The hope is that people will feel some type of way, which is what art is in general. I just hope to create an intense and immediate experience, and I'm interested to see what is the outcome.”

“Each [room] is an individual experience, but also you're here, you'll be going through all three, and I'm doing it, so there are a lot of things from my experience going into it that unify the work,” Kanani added. Those personal aspects of the installation include Kanani's recollections of growing up in Clintonville as a first-generation American (her father came from Iran in the 1970s to attend Ohio State University), a recent discussion about art therapy and whether a practitioner is an artist or therapist first, a personal fascination with convenience stores and a previous, similar work the MINT Collective member did at that group's former South Side space.

“So much nostalgia, almost too much for me to explain,” Kanani said.

Gazala's “Home Town” also examines how environment shapes experience, employing, however, a starkly different approach.

Initially inspired by a vacant structure Gazala encountered in the Milo-Grogan neighborhood, “Home Town” features photographs of vacant properties from several Columbus-area neighborhoods, including the South Side, Olde Towne East, Hilltop, King-Lincoln and Franklinton. The series appealed both to Gazala's penchant for social-justice art and to her longtime affinity for history.

“The vacancy issue is a national one, but it's clearly affecting many neighborhoods in Columbus,” Gazala said. “It's a signal that these areas are vulnerable.”

On a personal level, Gazala was faced with considering the history of the structures, where families shared meals, celebrated special occasions and grew up together. “I just wanted to document that they're here,” she said, sharing a story about seeing a vacant property that, a week later, had been torn down.

Gazala's visual cue — a small bouquet of flowers — has a purposeful dual meaning.

“You can give flowers as a memorial, or when someone is ailing but there is hope they're going to get better,” she said.