Happiness Is...

Christine Wong Yap, Irrational Exuberance Flags; Leah Rosenberg, Striped Benches and Illuminated Stripes I.

Christine Wong Yap, Irrational Exuberance Flags; Leah Rosenberg, Striped Benches and Illuminated Stripes I.


Through existing works and new commissions, artists Susan O’Malley (San Jose), Leah Rosenberg (San Francisco), and Christine Wong Yap (New York) explore the age-old question: How do we cultivate happiness?

Wong Yap's series of texts sewn from ribbons and installed directly on the gallery wall convey messages encouraging positive mental habits, while a new large-scale drawing diagrams the interconnections between theories of subjective wellbeing. Rosenberg explores how color, light and material impact our sense of contentment. Inspired by the use of light as a therapy for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), she invites gallery visitors to stand in front of her Illuminated Stripe Works, a series of small striped light boxes, and alleviate negative emotion. O’Malley has created a space in the gallery and invites visitors to experiment with various happiness-inducing activities, testing out the benefits of talking and listening to one another, and allowing time to relax. By transforming the gallery, O'Malley, Rosenberg and Wong Yap also examine the role of aesthetic pleasure in inspiring positive emotion.

The works in the gallery are distributed among two rooms—one blue and one grey. Works in the grey room imply that contentment spans a complex spectrum of emotions and conditions and suggest that positivity and pleasure may not be the only paths to happiness. Wong Yap’s MegaPentimento, conceived as a pair with MegaPennant, is a layered set of flags with varying arrangements of tints. The overlapping layers create darker opaque hues, signifying that happiness can encompass a range of interrelated mental states. Rosenberg's Paint Streamers simultaneously express joy, celebration, decay, and failure as the once-abundant pile of twisted paint deteriorates and collapses over time. The work suggests that we often over-emphasize the importance of euphoric happiness; only by experiencing sadness and negative emotion can we demonstrate resilience and access the full richness of the human condition.

—Donna Conwell, curator

Caption: Happiness Is... (Susan O'Malley, Leah Rosenberg, Christine Wong Yap), organized by Lucas Artists Program at the Montalvo Arts Center. Montalvo Arts Center Project Space Gallery, Saratoga, CA, January 25 to May 31, 2013. Curated by Donna Conwell. Projects supported by Lucas Artists Program at the Montalvo Arts Center.

Christine would like to thank Montalvo Arts Center staff and volunteers, especially Kelly, Donna, Julie, Lauren, Dan, Kellen, and Chris, for their hard work, dedication, and support; and Leah and Susan for being the kindest, keenest collaborators. None of this would be possible without all of your contributions.

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