A nostalgia-ridden exhibition opened in Bushwick over the weekend, featuring gargantuan VHS tapes, giant fireworks, a humongous Ouija board that actually levitates objects, and oversized amps that transport you into other worlds. The show is Willie Stewart's House on Fascination Street at Motel, and it flips on its head the feeling you get when you visit a distant relative's house, a certain restaurant, or a theme park as a child, but return years later only to have it feel much smaller and less magnificent than you remember.
The craftsmanship on all of Stewart's scaled up objects is impressive. You wouldn't know the VHS cases were hollow unless you picked them up yourself, and the Ouija board's magnetic levitation is seamless and mesmerizing. I saw the works in progress at Pioneer Works' open house last month, where Stewart explained that a series of rainbow-colored wood paneling was actually drawn by hand. There are impossible patterns in the wood grain to prove it, but at a glance it looks completely real.
By blowing up old Polaroids, band posters, and toys, Stewart recaptures the magic of a world full of mystery and whimsy he experienced growing up in Gallatin, Tennessee. He was powerfully influenced by his relatives in a local motorcycle club, the children of the other waitresses at "Susan's truck stop," with whom he played Dungeons and Dragons, and the 80s and 90s rock outfits that played at the Pyramid in Memphis, essentially making his childhood like a perfect coming-of-age film. He earned a BFA in fine art at Cooper Union in 2016, but before that he took a decade off of work to study electronics, got a chance to play guitar with Yoko Ono, and supported himself as a commercial display artist. The objects in House on Fascination Street are designed to capture the parapsychologic energy produced by these experiences, and draw out similar energy from visitors' own childhood memories.
Check out Stewart's nostalgia bombs from House on Fascination Street in the images below.