In Sun Seekers, Iranian-American artist Amy Khoshbin and her sister, artist Jennifer Khoshbin, create a healing world that trades technology for nature.
The airy gallery on Governors Island is divided into four “portals”: distinct areas to explore that evoke children’s play spaces in their shades of green, red, yellow, and pink. Giant sculptures hang from the ceiling, vibrantly colored rugs and stools sit on the floor, and flower and snake imagery is abundant.
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The first portal invites visitors to take off their shoes and put down their phone, which is renamed a “Wreck-tangle.” Upon entering I picked up a bright yellow pamphlet that reads, “Welcome to the sunport, we are the tillers of the sun field and we are the sowers of the sunport, we are the sun seekers.” The Khoshbins offer a positive spin on propaganda; their world building is a mythos, a religion, created to worship the sun and what the artists call “the green outdoors.”
I can see the influence of the sun god Mithras and Persian gardens, which are historically divided by two rivers, creating four quadrants, the four portals. The finely polished wood and meticulous craftsmanship of the exuberant furniture, rugs, and giant soft sculptures give the pieces a mature and grounded quality.
During my visit, I sat in a felt pod chair resembling a rose. Here, the rose seemed to suggest courage more than romance. The pamphlet says, “spin on the sun roses while focusing on the changing perspectives.” When a fellow “Sun Seeker” (the artists’ name for participants in the immersive show) gave me a spin, I dizzily relinquished my tenuous control over my world. In portal two, a scent drifted up from a kind of daybed that resembles a vulva. Is it rose? Ylang ylang? A round pink pillow was a reminder that more sexual education is necessary in the United States to better acquaint people with their bodies and provide a greater understanding of the workings of bodies with uteruses.
I saw a family with three young kids taking turns on a giant rocking chair with chimes, spinning in the flowers, trying on sequined capes, taking photos. In the capes they looked like superheroes. The capes are made from weighted blankets, which became popular during the pandemic to alleviate anxiety and make us feel safe. The exhibition seems to contemplate the social, mental, and emotional challenges we have all faced as the result of recent global traumatic events. The gallery goer is not just a viewer, but also a participant in a sensory experience that is individual but among others. Sun Seekers seems to say: we’ve been cooped up for too long; it’s time to get some fresh air.
The third portal contains jumpsuits that hang from the ceiling, covered with an increasing array of flowers and vines and snakes. Can I try one on? No. With all of the participatory elements, I was disappointed.
The exhibition’s centerpiece is a great vulvic eye made of felt and sequins that changes color when stroked. I pop my head underneath it and stand up, entering complete darkness; through speakers I hear sounds of a heartbeat and swishing amniotic fluid.
Sun Seekers works to rectify our relationships with our own bodies, from which technology has disconnected us, and aims to create a sense of solace through community and nature. The Khoshbin sisters generously offer these embodied experiences as a way to emerge from the strict isolation of the early pandemic. The next day instead of taking a “break” on my phone I went outside, laid in the grass, and closed my eyes.
Amy Khoshbin and Jennifer Khoshbin: Sun Seekers continues at The Arts Center at Governors Island (Building 110, 110 Andes Road, Governors Island, Manhattan) through October 30. The exhibition was organized by the venue.