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Identity By Committee: Kirkland exhibit ponders life, personality of mysterious Mrs. Goldberg

'Mrs. Goldberg Draws a Blank,' an oil and collage painting by Elizabeth Bruno, is one of several installations making up the Kirkland Arts Center's current exhibit, 'Mrs. Goldberg, A Curated Life.'
— image credit: Provided by Kirkland Arts Center

To some, Mrs. Goldberg is a wild adventurer, a woman who enjoys wing walking and once joining a group of friends from Seattle to trek down to Burning Man. To others, she is an aging, doting mother who struggles with, but eventually supports, her daughter’s decision to make jewelry instead of becoming a doctor. None of the ideas floating around on Mrs. Goldberg’s Facebook page can be proven right, yet none of them are incorrect.

Mrs. Goldberg, the fictionalized woman at the center of the Kirkland Arts Center’s new exhibit Mrs. Goldberg, A Curated Life, has sprouted the imaginations of artists and art patrons alike.

Viewers are meant to take away their own ideas about who Mrs. Goldberg is from the myriad of pieces that make up the exhibit. What they interpret about the mysterious Mrs. Goldberg from these fragmented pieces is meant to juxtapose reality with the identities people create online.

“If you look at the Facebook page, that person could be just as real as anyone else,” said one of the exhibit curators, Michael Dickter.

Dickter and fellow curator Nancy Whittaker brought the idea to the Kirkland Arts Center during an open call for exhibit submissions.

The imaginary entity of Mrs. Goldberg was created ten years ago by Ballard-based artist Carole d’Inverno in response to Dickter asking for the identity of the woman in an abstract oil painting she had just finished. “Oh, that’s Mrs. Goldberg,” she said flippantly, creating a woman who would become a long-running joke between the two, and later the star of the nearly 30-piece exhibition.

Most pieces in the show don’t comment on the physical aspects of Mrs. Goldberg. Instead, they act as scattered breadcrumbs, tidbits of information about her life and her personality.

But there isn’t even a set trail to follow — the exhibit wasn’t arranged with a particular workflow in mind.

For example, Mrs. Goldberg’s Struggle To Maintain Balance, which features a rough three-dimensional image of an abstract hanging scale, is made of mysterious rough-textured materials. Look closely, and you’ll see the frame is made from orange peels. The jury is out on the other materials and what balance Mrs. Goldberg is trying to maintain.

Both Dickter and Whittaker have sometimes contrasting but constantly evolving interpretations of the various artwork. Stopping in front of Mrs. Goldberg: Stowaway, a misty-colored painting showing the hull of a rowboat on calm waters, they offer differing opinions on if the boat is departing and arriving, where it came from/is going to.

“I’ve walked through this exhibit so many times, but I still have all of these new ideas about the pieces,” said Whittaker.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the show is that the purpose and takeaway is constantly changing. Spoiler alert: There are no answers. The conclusions drawn are entirely in the minds of the beholders.

“I wasn’t interested in coming up with who Mrs. Goldberg was,” said Dickter. “What was interesting was what everyone brought to it and takes away from it.”


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