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By Suzanne Révy, Associate Editor
A freckled nose and the squint of an eye peaking out from behind a book open Into the Moon’s Room, Rebecca Biddle Moseman’s reverential and lyrical photographic collaboration with her three sons, on view at the Griffin Museum’s satellite gallery at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA through April 1st, 2018.
The series began a few months after the sudden passing of Moseman’s sister in 2013. Her eldest son was particularly close to his aunt, and giving him the news of her death was heart-breaking. A few months later, she discovered a story called Into the Moon’s Room in one of her late sister’s writing journals. In it, her sister had noted that she and her nephew would use make-believe to trace the story again and again; they changed the scenarios and created new adventures for a black bird. The stories were playful, whimsical and fantastical, all the things a 10 year-old boy could imagine. Each ended differently, but all started with the same poem:
Oh, to go where the clouds sleep, Where the moons dance, And the starts weep. I went into the moon’s room, Zoom, Zoom. There were stars in his closet and clouds in his bed, and lying in the corner a black bird and her feathery black head.
As her family grieved, Moseman asked her oldest son to create new scenarios for the bird in black and white pictures as a way to honor the bond he had with his aunt. She asked her two younger sons to participate as well, and the pictures take viewers on a dream-like narrative of curiosity infused with wistful longing.
In Fading from Memory, the soft face of a boy is obscured through a dirty window with small stickers of hearts and a butterfly that seem to float around his somber face as a reminder of his lost aunt. Offering and Don’t Look reveal growing adolescent hands. Two striking images of backs one called Dirt of a tall, lanky adolescent, the other Rope Tendrils of a still cherubic younger child offer sumptuous reminders of the joy of reveling in the dirt or grass with glimpses of growing and changing bodies.
Moseman’s narratives remain cloaked in mystery and yet her boys’ gestures reveal clues and possibilities to the viewer. For example, in Leaves, her son holds a long-stemmed, spiral leaf draped over the soft slope of his shoulder. It evokes the pleasure of nature’s touch, but is instilled with a faint sense of melancholy.
It is unusual to find pictures that explore whimsical fictions featuring boys, but these tender and intimate pictures with bodies basking shirtless in the outdoors bring a kind, soothing comfort to the viewer as Moseman guides her sons through their shared grief. As a viewer, however, my wish to be comforted within this world is stymied somewhat by the scale of the pictures. These images would benefit from being presented as larger prints to allow viewers a more immersive journey into the moon’s room.
A free, public Closing Reception with the artist will take place at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA on Thursday, March 29th, 2018 from 6:30 – 8:00pm.
For more information about this exhibit, go to: http://griffinmuseum.org/show/into-the-moons-room/
Feature Image: “Blood” (Detail) from the series Into the Moon’s Room by Rebecca Biddle Moseman (courtesy of the artist and Griffin Museum of Photography).