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In the galleries: How we define ourselves

Kymia Nawabi’s “Not for Long, My Forlorn” is on view at Davidson College Galleries through Feb. 27.
Kymia Nawabi’s “Not for Long, My Forlorn” is on view at Davidson College Galleries through Feb. 27. DAVIDSON COLLEGE GALLERIES

Lodestar

Kymia Nawabi’s large mixed-media paintings on paper are filled with yearning.

Growing up without religion, Nawabi later realized that she did not understand death. In search of answers to her questions about the afterlife, she began intensely researching mythology, alchemy and funerary traditions of different religions.

In this exhibition, Nawabi, a Durham native who lives in Brooklyn, explores mortality in two different bodies of work.

In the “Not for Long, My Forlorn” series, humans encounter gods and spirits as they contemplate or approach death. The painting “Have Faith in the Ouroboros” depicts a woman confronting her own spirit; the Ouroboros, the serpent that swallows its tail (but is shown here uncoiled), acts as an intermediary.

In her newest series, “The Future,” Nawabi reviews her life in preparation for her death.

The title work in this series is a tender drawing of the artist and her husband lying on a bed. Their bodies are composed of doves and nesting materials. The words “the future” are literally written in their veins. The man stares out and past the viewer, as if in a dream state. Above them hovers the artist’s head.

Nawabi’s work is not easy to decipher without some guidance, but it is touching, dramatic and cathartic in its mixture of melancholy and hope.

Smith Gallery, Davidson College; davidsoncollegeartgalleries.org; 704-894-2519; through Feb 27.

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Matthew Steele’s architecture-inspired sculptures, which are crafted primarily from walnut, are obsessive, but stately.

Steele of Charlotte sees his current work as monuments – but not to heroes, wars or giant egos. Instead, they honor emotions that remain when external forces are stripped away.

The works are titled simply: “Monument to Regret,” “Monument to Futility,” and so on – a thoughtful, somber litany of reflection. “Relief” is pagoda-like; “Fear” has spear-like protrusions; “Indecision” is boat-like, but the title prompts the viewer to see it as a scale; “Regret” is a mirrored tunnel; and “Futility” features two ladders, suspended from a pulley, that lead to and from nowhere.

The archival prints appear to be photographs of existing sculptures, but they are original illustrations. They are foreboding and mist-shrouded, reminiscent of fog blowing across the Golden Gate Bridge.

While you’re on campus, check out “Under My Skin,” Adrian Rhodes’ exhibition in the Ross Galleries, through March 5.

This Hartsville, S.C., artist displays her love for materials and techniques in exuberant mixed-media pieces that variously combine collage, drawing and printmaking, as well as common materials like T-pins, fabric, and fishing weights and hooks.

Pease Gallery, Central Piedmont Community College; blogs.cpcc.edu/cpccartgalleries; 704-330-6211; through March 5.

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