Robbie Short

I stepped through two black curtains into local artist Cayla Lockwood’s “Bedroom,” currently on display in ArtSpace’s project room. I was expecting a bed, a few pillows, maybe a nightstand. Instead, I stepped into a strange, almost dream-like space: white walls, a stained-glass window, floating tea lights, five black conical shapes (Oversized traffic cones? Ant hills? Stalagmites?) arranged in an imperfect semicircle on the floor. Jazzy elevator music played from somewhere in the room. From somewhere else, echoing streams of a distant voice sang, “Oh, where can I go to and what can I do?” (Ozzy Ozbourne in Black Sabbath’s “Solitude,” according to a not-so-stealthy Google search). How is this a bedroom? I thought, feeling a little betrayed or just naïve.

Shuffling around the room a few times, still confused, I stepped closer to the centermost stalagmite. “The world is a lonely place,” Ozzy crooned. I craned my neck to the top of the cone and peered down. There, at the bottom, was a miniature bedroom about the size of one cubic foot.

“I am interested in small moments with large feelings,” Lockwood wrote in her description of “Bedroom.” At the bottom of each cone-like structure, Lockwood set up a different diorama of the same bedroom, each showing the room in a varying state of array. She aimed to explore space, loneliness and longing. As a poet and graphic designer, much of Lockwood’s past work has explored loneliness and melancholy through text-based installations, often short poetry appearing in unlikely places. But “Bedroom,” part of a citywide open studio project called “Dwelling,” is almost entirely devoid of text. Its effects are predominantly visual, forcing us to think about the tangible things that make up our personal space (the pillows, the pizza boxes, the posters) and the ways those things remain over time.

It’s an almost voyeuristic thrill, peering down into the rooms. Though the exhibit gives no explicit order in which to view the miniatures, it’s hard not to construct a narrative between them.

In one miniature, someone is just moving in. It is bright with Christmas lights; unopened boxes are stacked against one wall; a guitar case sits by the bed. Framed paintings and a few other miscellaneous objects are stacked by the wall, and a Pizza Hut box lays slightly opened on the floor. A hammer, screwdriver and scissors sit on the desk, ready to open the boxes. It’s a hopeful room, a beginning.

Another version of the room is in perfect order. The light is orange and warm; the paintings hang straight on the wall; the bed is made; a laptop sits open on the desk. Life is good.

Then the room is dim and messy, and its details are hard to make out. Blankets heaped on the bed, bookshelf empty, floor covered in little scraps of trash — the room is tired and lived-in.

Some winters are harder than others.

In another miniature, blue light completely inundates the room. There’s been a fight, or a betrayal. The bed is torn apart, and two dirty bowls fester next to it. The floor is covered in trash and the dresser is askew. Someone has left.

Lockwood aims to convey a space of loneliness and melancholy, and in many ways, she does — the distressed melodies, the blue and the disheveled sheets, for instance. More poignantly, however, the exhibit reveals the way our lives are ever-surrounded and defined by our things. Maybe I’m too materialistic, but life often feels like a drawn-out accumulation of stuff. We find, we ruin, we display, we toss, we drop, we lose, we find, we keep. The moon poster we hang stays on the wall for years. The same plant goes with us from our sophomore-year dorm to our junior-year dorm. We get new socks, and they still end up on the floor.

In “Bedroom,” it’s a comfort to recognize the same blanket on the bed from miniature to miniature. It’s a relief to see the same scissors, the same guitar case, the same desk chair. However clean and bright or dreary and dirty the room becomes, the stuff of Lockwood’s “Bedroom” tells its own story. With so many things, you’re never really alone (and yet, you always are).

I think of my own bedroom back home, a place I leave abandoned for most of the year. It’s packed with my junk — old books with plots that I’ve forgotten, movie tickets, half-empty lip gloss tubes. My bedroom tells a haphazard story of places I’ve been, things I’ve picked up, and people I’ve met. Each time I go home, it is in these tangible objects that I see who I am, or at least who I was.

Sometimes, my mom told me, she goes into my bedroom and lies down on the bed. She flips through my books and opens the desk drawers. Surrounded by my junk, she feels less lonely.

I think this is the loneliest part of Lockwood’s “Bedroom” — not being able to open the drawers, lie on the bed or rummage through the trash. Looming above the rooms, peering down, we are but distanced viewers.

Leaving the exhibit, I catch a few more strains of Ozzy’s “Solitude.”

“Everything I possessed, now they are gone.”

Contact Jillian Kravatz at .