A PLACE TO HANG Kovac and Paternoster's 'Inside Joke.' [Photo by Arthi Sunderesh]
“Be careful in the dang tent!” warns a small framed sign on the floor of AS220’s Project Space (93 Mathewson St, Providence, through Sept. 27) for the exhibition “Safe Space,” a collection of drawings that Delia Kovac “made with my best friend Marissa Paternoster.”
The tent is a blanket fort that they’re calling Inside Joke. They’ve draped fabric, screenprinted with drawings of faces, over chairs. Inside are pillows, a radio, a couple of glasses, and a half-empty bottle of whiskey with a handmade label featuring a picture of a horse and the words “You are welcome.”
Turn the bottle around and you find a set of “Instructions” telling you to sit in the tent with a friend, drink whiskey shots, “enjoy rock music,” “maybe talk about some feelings you feel,” “repeat as needed.” Then “Enjoy!” A notebook covered with pictures of horses is helpfully provided for you to jot your “Feelings.”
Kovac and Paternoster, best known for her band Screaming Females, have hung black-and-white paint and ink drawings that they collaborated on across the surrounding gallery walls. They’re busy, swirling, doodley, maze-like compositions of lots of hairy marks, dashed lines that sometimes make you think of bricks, and wiggly shapes that sometimes look like melting cartoon hands. Titles include The Beautiful Girls Who Are Shyly Brave, All I Wanted Was More Than I Knew, and Temper My Hatred With Peace. The drawings are evidence of their work together — a fun time, by the looks of it — but perhaps art made more for the artists themselves, for the fun of making, than for the audience.
It’s that blanket fort that sticks in my head. “Safe Space,” Kovac writes, “displays the pleasure of mark making, rock ’n’ roll and unconditional love in times of darkness.” Some of the things on Kovac’s mind: “the importance of platonic queer relationships” and “why cultural spaces of resistance are sometimes blanket forts where you hang out with your bestie.”
The tent is an invitation to retreat into the safe havens — real and pretend — of our youths. In the face of hard times, it offers the magical, companionable, ritual healing power of play.