Paintings that bridge our analog and online worlds

Nathan Miner's "Cloud Atlas #1" painting, on view at Steven Zevitas Gallery.
Nathan Miner's "Cloud Atlas #1" painting, on view at Steven Zevitas Gallery.Nathan Miner/Steven Zevitas Gallery

Recent months have cemented the anemic glitter of screen life as a reality — even a lifeline. Boston artist Nathan Miner, whose dense, gestural abstract paintings investigate how we construct reality, has an exhibition at Steven Zevitas Gallery that marries real-world artwork with digital magic.

A painting is, in a sense, another screen onto which we project our own belief structures. But it has a clear border. Miner’s two “Cloud Atlas” paintings, named after David Mitchell’s novel about dissolving the boundaries of self, are strong analog works: Steamy, tropical tones, shot and crinkling with shadows, like a world vaporizing in heat.


Nathan Miner's "Cloud Atlas #2."
Nathan Miner's "Cloud Atlas #2."Nathan Miner/Steven Zevitas Gallery

The artist’s augmented reality version of the show is downloadable on some devices through his “GhostwriterXR” app, including on a tablet available in the gallery (with disinfectant wipes). It can be viewed anywhere; take it into the street. But seeing it in concert with the paintings is a must. Viewing the “Cloud Atlas” paintings with AR is like looking through a window: a world unfurls beyond the frame. The tangibility of the paintings gives way to a dream.

The AR piece “Vision Quest” is the exhibition’s centerpiece. Miner made the analog painting on a scroll that perches, all rolled up, beside the door. Its virtual counterpart, however, is open for view; you can stand inside and be swept up in the artist’s trademark calligraphy and dense layering. It begins — or ends, or both — with a circle, which echoes one of Miner’s real-life works on the wall behind it, “Eye of the Well,” a soft aqua orb.

An augmented reality view of Nathan Miner's "Vision Quest Scroll."
An augmented reality view of Nathan Miner's "Vision Quest Scroll."Nathan Miner/Steven Zevitas Gallery

The circle brings to mind the omphalos — Greek for “navel” — a stone set by Zeus in Delphi to mark the world’s center. Seamus Heaney wrote of “the invisible, untoppled omphalos” in his poem “The Toome Road.” The Invisible and intangible loom in our cosmologies, quivering with all we cannot see or grasp.


The screen world has great potential to put us in touch with unfamiliar realms within ourselves. Shuttling back and forth from there to paintings, Miner buttresses the bridge between reality and imagination, and suggests that the two may be more connected than we know.


At Steven Zevitas Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., through Aug. 22. By appointment. 617-778-5265, www.stevenzevitasgallery.com

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.