Editor’s note: “Matching Picture” is a Double Scoop series in which Josie Glassberg gives a personal, meditative read on a favorite work or series. In this installment, she discusses a Nate Clark’s exhibition, Catenary Control. In other articles from the Matching Picture series, Josie shared her reactions to work by Austin Pratt, Galen Brown, and Miya Hannan. —Kris Vagner
et-black yarn, looped into a soft, delicate, diamond-patterned net, hangs at eye level in Nate Clark’s Catenary Control at Oats Park Art Center. Next to this piece — one of many titled “Net Without Knots” — are six, waxy, lobster-trap-looking net sculptures, each immobilized on the wall in various states of collapse. Net windows float on the wall, held open by wood and carefully placed nails. In the middle of the room, a door-sized wooden archway implies a threshold. Throughout the gallery, more waxy, rope-like, and soft, nets-with-and-without-knots hang on the walls, some unraveling slightly now that the exhibition is coming to a close.
I’m not sure if it is because I love Nate’s work or because this is my second drive out to Fallon in two months, but something about Catenary Control seems familiar. Not familiar in a home sense or worn-in pants type of way, but more like the feeling of recognition you get when a person feels inevitable or you see The Matrix for the first time — causing everything around you to be either pricked with light or overlaid with strings of embarrassing, green, binary code, respectively.
Now, I imagine the world is overlaid with Nate’s nets — fuzzy, invisible grids that occasionally show through as they hang on a wall, stretch across a canyon, or stick to our bodies like skin. In the gallery, they become discrete objects that I can stare into or walk through; porous nets and arched thresholds that gather my loose thoughts about the internet, love, and exploitation and turn them into locations. Small spaces and planetary bodies that pull me in.
The black net is distinctly planetary, having its own gravitational field that demands prolonged eye contact, then close orbit. After looking for several minutes, I lean into darkness and enter a sleep state — a void that feels like total, blackout rest. When I look away, I am dreaming.
In my dream, there are lobster nets whose inhabitants have narrowly escaped, but not before seeing the whites of our eyes. Now that our cruelty is known, we are sentenced to be watched by the animals for all of eternity.
Next to the traps, a curve of wood hangs on the wall, facing down. A soft, ochre net-without-knots drapes over the threshold, completing the shape into a circle that is also a sharkmouth that is also a window. To its right, another soft, ivory-colored net hangs with a smaller, gaping mouth. Both are exits from the dream — back to earth or wherever, though they may not return you to the same body or lifetime.
I keep walking.
A net made of thin rope, colored string, and wire has caught all of the social media posts ever posted and brought them into a tangled, flat, two-foot-by-two-foot knot. From the astral plane, the posts appear to be a growth or a mass, not malignant but not friendly either, bearing a resemblance to scribbles (as well as Nate’s previous painting and drawing work).
On the adjacent wall, two more knotted nets — one black-and-white draped from a single nail, and the other, a white one attached to a hoop — hang like the inter-net, but also not at all like the internet. Instead of a tangled mess, they are silk stockings; lovely artifacts of things we have made on purpose. Art or music, maybe. Science, if you are science-minded (I am not).
The rest of the back wall is covered with several more nets-without-knots — all just as beautiful and soft as the black net, but with colors that invoke the many faces of love. Two side-by-side dark and light blue nets are mother and child with hanging string umbilical cord; first love. A massive, ochre net connects us to the earth and an ombre, TV-sized pink-and-red net brings us back to an affinity for ourselves, and — I think — all others. Love is a thousand diamond-shaped holes I can pass through, or be perforated by.
Something I haven’t mentioned yet … this whole time there has been a very large, four-sided, inverted pyramid suspended from the middle of the room. It is big enough that I have had to plan my route around it, but because it is see-through, it does not feel as imposing as it would if it were solid. Hanging base-to-tip, it occurs to me that this form is the opposite of an Egyptian pyramid. A mirror image of peak civilization or late-stage capitalism? A spinning top? A net trap? Did we build this, too?
I have more questions, but suddenly I am standing in front of a large, wooden archway in the gallery. Through it, I can see the black net — the dreamer dreaming. It is my way back.
When I wake up, I am in my own bed. The-net-without-knots that hangs to my right is white instead of black and is creeping down the wall, flattening the soft portals I must have passed through. My boyfriend is asleep, inevitable, perforated. My cat is awake and watching me, as usual. Not as usual are his claws, which are red and pincher-like. I’m vegan, I say. No you’re not, he clicks back. You eat fish. I go about my day, seeing nets everywhere.
Nate Clark’s Catenary Control is on view through Nov. 13 at the Oats Park Art Center in Fallon, along with Julia Schwadron Marianelli’s Trembling Grass/Vibrating Grass: Recent Paintings and Michelle Lassaline’s As Hounds Pursue Hares: Paintings, Drawings and Textiles.
The galleries are open during events, including American Patchwork Quartet’s evening concert and afternoon talk on Nov. 13. (The talk is at 3 pm, and the art center will open at 2 pm.) The art center staff welcomes requests for appointments to view the exhibitions at other times. To schedule a visit, call (775) 423-1440.
Cover image: courtesy Churchill Arts Council