Alison Matherly and Jeffrey Noble of the artist duo Nice’n Easy have created work all over South Florida, but their latest project at the Young at Art Museum in Davie gave them a unique challenge.
“From the start," Noble says, "anything you make, it has to be completely indestructible or made to be destroyed.”
Young at Art isn’t exactly a children’s museum — it frequently shows work that adults will find thought-provoking, perhaps even challenging, and one of its best-known exhibits is an installation by Kenny Scharf. Still, young children are the primary demographic, and if there’s one thing anyone knows about them, it’s that they must touch everything.
"We never really had to think about that," Matherly says. "It’s been challenging but fun. We have a newborn baby, so now I think it’s something we’re going to have to think about all the time."
Matherly and Noble found themselves with a very specific set of conditions: How would they integrate their own artistic mindset into an exhibit that’s educational, tactile, user-friendly, and, most of all, fun?
To answer that question, they've come up with "InnerSpace," set to open Saturday, November 16, and remain on display through April 26. As they put it, the exhibit is an exploration of dreams, both those of the mind and in the form of ikigai, a Japanese word meaning "reason to be" that has evolved into a self-help philosophy.
Nice'n Easy has made the concept kid-friendly but no less profound. Inside a central chamber, four color-coded sections illustrate the four facets of ikigai — what one is good at (yellow), what one can be paid for (green), what one loves (red), and what the world needs (blue) — with a single answer to all four questions illustrating one's purpose. Neon signs and mirrors in each room act as prompts for visitors to reflect on each question, and dry-erase markers are provided so attendees can write their answers. The pair designed the space to simulate a home, albeit one inspired by dream interpretation and self-exploration.
"In dreams, the home is your self. If you dream about a house or you’re navigating a house, it’s actually your mind, your soul that you’re navigating," Matherly explains. "And so we’re kind of doing something like that, where we’re creating these dreamy rooms."
Certain motifs will aid in the dreamlike atmosphere and stimulate little imaginations. The central chamber is enclosed by a white framework similar to the suburban swimming pool enclosures ubiquitous in South Florida. Inside, the floor will be filled with sand to simulate a playground sandbox or a tropical island. Furniture is curvy and comfortable, with seats made from durable pool noodles, and the duo is also planning water-themed projections and sound effects.
Each of the spaces also contains activities, although the duo is still planning exactly what will go where. The yellow "I'm good at..." room — envisioned as a show-and-tell space — contains a bookshelf that will be filled with interesting objects. "I get paid for..." holds a spirograph machine, illustrating to children they have to put in work to get something out of their endeavors.
There's one very creative Easter egg: The sandbox’s Möbius strip-like foundation is in the shape of the infamous "cool S" — a mysterious, pre-internet symbol that millennials found themselves compulsively doodling in grade school.
"We were interested in why people still do it or why did everyone do it at the same time, besides it being cool. We kind of figured that, for one, it’s pretty easy to do," Matherly says. “We also considered that it was like a meditative practice, because you wouldn’t just draw it once; you would draw it over and over and fill up a whole page or the cover of your notebook.”
Although the duo will present work at Satellite during Miami Art Week and participate in the Artists in Residence in Everglades (AERIE) program in December, "InnerSpace" marks Noble and Matherly's biggest project so far. And though it might not exactly be the upper echelons of the art world, Noble jokes it's giving the couple valuable experience in another area.
"We’re getting the crash course in what we need to think about when having children by doing this show," he quips.
"InnerSpace." Saturday, November 16, through April 26 at Young at Art Museum, 751 SW 121st St., Davie; 954-424-0085; youngatartmuseum.org. Admission costs $14 for adults and children and $12 for Broward County residents.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the name of Nice'n Easy's exhibit was "InnerVisions." The name of the exhibit is "InnerSpace."