It’s no secret that I love intense installations and quirky conceptual art–my favorite type of contemporary art is anything that makes me feel like the child protagonist of a fantasy novel, exploring a brave new world that has such colors and forms in it.
This marks my third year that I’ve blogged about my annual trip to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA!) and I am so delighted to share some new wonders. I get the sense, sometimes, that many think art appreciation is a realm of extremes–you either love historic art and think modernism is meretricious and meaningless, or enjoy contemporary art and find old gold frames dull and outdated.
I promise, it’s possible to appreciate both the Renaissance and rooms filled with giant plastic towers (which I saw at Mass MOCA a few years ago)! Actually, taking on the persona of your inner kid-in-a-fantasy novel, forgetting all the biases and preconceptions you might carry into any museum, is a good way to start!
I’ve been joking about my “feud” with Pierre-Auguste Renoir ever since I overdosed on his art at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia–a place where literally every wall is covered with his works. An afternoon there will certainly give you enough bucolic portraits of shimmeringly blurry young girls to last a lifetime!
Truth is, though, that I’m totally kidding myself: I love what the guy can do with color and flowers. At a place like the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, where I was surrounded by both nature and Impressionism, I’m even more apt to admire his boldly-brushed blooms.
2016 marks the third year in which I’ve kicked off September with a field trip to museums in the Berkshires. This time, I was inspired by my love of macro photography to capture wondrous, delicate details in Renoi–um, Impressionist paintings–and some other enchanting genres!
(Pictured above: a photograph of a flower I took on one of the Clark’s nature trails, followed by some blooms painted by–you guessed it…)
A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,
And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –
After two years of living in the Pioneer Valley, I had only visited the Emily Dickinson Museum–the former home of a poet whose works have entranced me since childhood–twice. Both pilgrimages took place during grey October days, when the grounds were already showing slight traces of frost.
My visit to the museum this past weekend, however, showed me the truest glimpse into Emily’s world I may ever experience. The gardens that so influenced her writing were in full bloom, and I found myself wandering and wondering, trying to capture a sense of this shy yet intellectually feisty writer whom I identify as a real kindred spirit, even though we were born centuries apart.
There are museum exhibitions–and then there are playgrounds for the mind, galleries where ideas germinate and grow and mutate. The Renwick Gallery’s Wonder exhibition is unlike no installation I’ve ever encountered before. Nine artists transformed its spaces into iridescent halls of rainbows, grand canyons of paper or tires, and glowing gossamer ceilings.
Although I’ve studied art history for several years now, I wouldn’t ever call myself a connoisseur of any European or American painters–my scholarly interests lie outside of the traditional boundaries of “Western fine art.” Still, after you’ve visited as many museum as I have, it’s easy to identify most relatively famous painters at first glance. I like to think of it as recognizing close friends!
When I visited the National Gallery during my trip to DC, I was delighted by my ability to correctly name most paintings’ creators without looking at the label. I guess all of the tours I’ve led and research I’ve completed has endowed me with the ability to tell a Cole from a Church even from several feet away! Above all, though, I’m just so happy to have had the opportunity to view so many masterpieces in one brief afternoon.
Before I launch into this natural history extravaganza, let me deal with some housekeeping matters: thank you for putting up with a day of theme weirdness on Sunday while I completely redesigned Sarr Trek’s look! I think the new aesthetic better captures my own interests and style–plus, it’s super cute. (If you haven’t seen my actual site in a while, you should give it a quick look!)
Anyway, my celebration of our Thanksgiving trip to the Boston & North Shore area continues today: this time with more squid and science! Though I’ve heard much of them, I’d never visited any of Harvard’s museums, so our family adventure was the perfect way to check the Cambridge group off my gallery bucket list. As someone who works at an art museum, I have a soft spot for natural history museums and other institutions that showcase things entirely different from my workplace’s collections. It’s a lot of fun to see how curation and education functions in other fields of study.
Also, I mean, I just really love fossils and stuff, so, you know.
If you love curiosities, early modern collections, the sea, and maritime art, the Peabody Essex Museum–in Salem, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston–is the place for you.
That sounds fairly generic and tour-brochure-ready, so let me clarify: I love all of the aspects of art and history mentioned above, and the PEM is probably among my top five museum favorites. I first visited in 2012, and have enjoyed returning as frequently as I could ever since.
This post is the first in a two-part series exploring my time at the PEM–I’ll start out by focusing on the permanent collections, and then move into the special exhibitions (okay, one very special exhibition!) sometime soon!