Nostalgia is a complex concept. It is rosy and dark at the same time. Signifying an intense yearning for the past, this self-dividing word encumbers the human soul with the task of holding two emotional extremities, pleasure and pain, simultaneously.
The word's own etymology is a compound of conflict. The concept was first coined in German — a language whose capacity for lengthy, multi-meaning words seems appropriate for nostalgia's thorny imposition. It was back-formed from from the Greek words for "homecoming" (nostos) and "pain" (algos). As its root words dictate, nostalgia is both pleasant and painful.
Like many complex human emotions, we turn to art to unpack the meaning. In The Nostalgia Collection, we examine the complicated emotional state through vintage styles, timeworn colors, and old-fashioned subjects. We show how art that cherishes the past can trigger a cascade of warm, powerful memories and enriches our understanding of nostalgia.
Here are a few highlights from the collection:
Nava Lundy's rosy and romantic impressionism visualizes nostalgia. The blurred edges and softened colors give the aesthetic of a memory. The Tide Will Turn has an undeniable beauty, and yet a wistful unknowability.
Apparition was inspired by Christopher Garvey's own fading memory of an aunt who passed away at a young age. This mixed media artwork shows how nostalgia can be apparitional. Memories revisit the mind in a ghostlike manner, in one sense real and haunting, and in another sense nebulous and invisible.
Boys taps into the longstanding association with nostalgia and a longing for childhood. The single figure — a young boy in a football helmet depicted in black and white — exudes a comforting and fond, vintage aesthetic.
In classical, realist still lifes, Jose H. Alvarenga uses mementos and souvenirs to ask questions about the nature of a memory. In Windmills, he juxtaposes a Dutch ceramic windmill with a copy of Jacob Van Ruisdael's 17th century painting The Windmill at Wijk Bij Duurstede. The objects depicted and the painting itself, cause the reader to wonder how art plays a role in the experience, or memory of the experience, of a windmill.