Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A visit to Mass MoCA

Had a brief but memorable visit to Mass Moca up in the Berkshires last Saturday. The day started out with me driving up to Amhurst to pick up best girl Katie Winston and off we went into the wild and rainy mountains for a day of art browsing and iced coffee swallowing.
Best best best of the mega-huge gallery space was Jenny Holzer. The large scale projection was awesome on three could lie on an immense bean bag chair on the gallery floor and not only stare up at the projection, but you actually become PART of the whole installation. This experience was very quiet and restful. Two, standing at the back you could "shadow play" with your body on the wall which would intermingle with the text. Three, on the balcony above, we could objectify the work as observers, and not participants. From that vantage point we were able to read the passages, and experience quite a different feeling than when we were lying on the floor. Jenny's text was a soliloquy to the Iraqi war. On the whole, the event was completely satisfying.

Now, as promised per our LAST visit in October with team members Justin and Keri, the Anselm Kieffer exhibit had finally opened. Better late than never, I guess. The monster-sized mixed media pieces were, as expected, awesome. 'Nuff said. The big surprise was the unbelievable paintings. Huge things with the paint so thick and juicy I wanted to caress and squeeze the things. All were interpretations of post-apocalyptic landscapes. YUM. Go see. That is all I need say about that.

One more piece of note...sorry, artist unknown. A projection of a tree that undulated and changed colors was mesmerizing. The Katester and I watched this image from 2 levels. Balcony, and up close and personal. Simple and beautiful.

Worth the trip north, Mass Moca never fails to please.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What's Happening in Boston?

Hmmm...just when I thought it was safe to return to my old stomping grounds.......

Went to the highly touted SOWA (South of Washington) arts district Friday night for the "First Friday" art crawl and open studio event which happens (you guessed it) the first Friday of every month. Well, to put things into a nutshell, I was disappointed. In this writer's/artist's opinion, the work was either forced, stilted, or just plain "boooor-ing" (to quote that famous one-liner from the 60's Odd Couple television series).

To be fair, though, I will say that we made the rounds in the Harrison/Thayer alleyway only, due to the weather being a bit on the "monsoon-ish" side (heavy rain, high winds). There are two floors of gallerys in the alley, and although we could not even see into the Bromfield Gallery it was so crowded, we looked in every one and were mostly disappointed. Suffice it to say we saw a lot more interesting things in the floors above the gallerys where the artists opened their studios to the public.

There were a two artists of note, however, that I did want to give mention to. The first being Janet Kawada, who is presently showing her a collection of new work entiltled "Talisman" at The Kingston Gallery. The Kingston is an artist run co-op that never fails to deliver. Janets new collection of sculptures are both powerful and playful. Very different from her previous work, this fiber artist was mind-weary of the serious nature of her usual wall sculptures, and decided to play for a while. The result is a series of small sculptural forms that bring to mind "fetish-toys", and several larger free standing pieces that evoke a sensualness that draws you inside and plays with your imagination. The main ingredient in Janet's work has always been handmade felt and these are no different, although this time around there is the unusual addition of tiny beads. The beading is thankfully subtle and adds to the quirkiness of the smaller pieces. I say, BRAVO !Janet. This show made our trip into Boston worthwhile.

Michael Costello is a painter whose latest creations grace the wall of Gallery XIV. What can I say about this work? Hmmm. They made me think, for sure, because I am still thinking. So I'll say the work was thought provoking. I will not pan the work, nor will I praise it, except to say that this man is a talented draftsman. His realist painting is on the mark, if a bit overdone. Forced. Loud. The drawings were another matter, however. Beautifully rendered, these gesture drawing with just a hint of color were gorgeous. Fantastic. Now, for the subject matter.

Couples at play...intercourse, intimacy, and...Elmo? (as in "Tickle Me") Oh, yes.

Largely strange. Weirdly different. Hmmm. The paintings made me giggle out loud when I first entered the space. Not a reaction I normally give while looking at art. But on closer inspection, I was bothered by them. Really bothered. Sesame street characters in bed with a couple in the throws of intimacy evoked horrific thoughts of child molestation! ICK! My first instinct to laugh was purely that...instinct. I believe now it was a gut reaction to something that made me extremely uncomfortable.

The drawings were another matter entirely. "The Queens Private Diary" was a series of intimate sketches where the man is portrayed as wearing a pig snout and a court jesters hat. Weirdly grotesque. Reminiscent of an circa 1800 circus of freaks. Putting myself in the woman's place under the man made me want to run from the gallery.

I didn't. I calmly turn and walked out, taking with me a feeling that I had been exposed to someones nightmarish fantasys. According to Colstello's biography on the work, he is "exploring the relationships between the classical figure, Pop Culture, and our cultural anthropomorphism".

Well, Michael, I guess I am one of those folks who find "ugly meanings in beautiful things".

"nuff said.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pulp Function

It's a bit overdue, but here we go....

The three of us went to the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton Massachusetts before Christmas, and as usual, this tiny museum delivered the goods. Our main focus, of course, was the all-fiber exhibit, "Pulp Function". This was actually my second visit to the was worth another look, for sure.
When we first entered the space, I thought Keri was going to have a heart attack. She displayed all the symptoms...shortness of breath, a look of overwhelming shock, and she was holding tight to her she was in pain. This kind of reaction is a good indication that the splendor of the work was unsurpassed. Keri needed space, air, and time in which to recover from her swoon.

My favorite pieces (of course) were the articles of women's clothing. Wedding gown, ball gown, party dress, cocktail dress, business suit et. al. Everything for a modern woman on the go.
The artist Mia Hall displayed 2 such pieces of finery in her "Domestic Expectations", which were my absolute favorites. "The Bride" is a wedding dress made entirely with paper towel and toilet paper. AMAZING. The back of the dress form was even better...a hidden space in the back was opened to reveal cleaning supplies! Very clever. Her second piece, "The Mother" was a business suit made out of disposable diapers. Very cool. The opened back compartment of the form displayed diapers, baby products, and of course, a changing table! WOW. We were all so blown away. The craftsmanship was absolutely was top notch. The concept, however, was what really shook us. The work is a perfect commentary on the state of affairs for so many women in our present day. We do it all. We get married, have babies, and continue to work at a full time job! Being a wife and mother IS a full time job. We brake for sleep only!

Cat Chow's "Not for Sale" evening gown was an eye-popper as well. Made of 1000 shredded $1.00 bills, this incredible piece of work was (to me) a commentary on the shifting values in America. Again, the craftsmanship was unsurpassed. It looked as if it were crocheted, although Justin seemed to think it was assembled another way, and I do believe he is correct. This artists made tiny chain links with the fibers and somehow managed to assemble this dress seamlessly. Again...WOW.
Another favorite of mine was "Mary Jane", by Shelly Hodges. Sewn together and made entirely from Mary Jane candy wrappers, this piece brought me back in time to when I was a little girl.
It's sweetness came from more than just the idea of candy for me.

Everything in this show offered us a banquet of luscious eye candy, amazing skills and well thought out concepts. The show is gone now, but I know that the next installment at the Fuller Craft Museum will be as much a delight as "Pulp Function" was. For information on what's happening there now, visit