Here’s a list of New England’s ongoing events!
Here’s a list of New England’s ongoing events!
Inside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, a room of color blooms. There are fictional seaside blues and house shingle reds. A friendly grey whale graces the white walls like a story out of a children’s dream. It is the Make Way for Ducklings exhibit featuring the artwork of author and illustrator, Robert McCloskey. Over 50 paintings by McCloskey are presented in a stunning collection of sketches and final watercolors by the artist. This exhibit coincides with the 75th anniversary of the 1941 publication of Make Way for Ducklings.
Among his books, including Blueberries for Sal (1948) and One Morning in Maine (1952), McCloskey shows a distinct love for the New England landscape. Sketches from Make Way for Ducklings show the quaint streets of Boston in all its brick-lined enchantment. The detail in his most preliminary illustrations conjures an element of timelessness and familiarity that makes the viewer feel as if they too are wandering about the leafy path of the Boston’s Public Garden.
As curator Meghan Melvin offered, McCloskey often composed illustrations with a sense of movement and perspective. Many of the illustrations in Make Way for Ducklings seem, in fact, to be from the perspective of a duckling. This tangible viewpoint, as Melvin described, allows the reader to be immersed in a new outlook and is perhaps what makes children, to this day, absorb themselves so greatly in McCloskey’s storytelling.
Other artwork on display includes illustrations from the wonderful, fisherman swallowed by a whale story, Burt Down, Deep Water Man (1963). Preliminary sketches show a penciled man throwing buckets of black and yellow paint on the inside walls of a great whale. One fascinating aspect of seeing these sketches is to see McCloskey’s blocky text included within the paintings themselves. It is as if story and illustration were born as one, always coexisting. The finalized painting hangs beside this sketch, a wonderful splash of colors tossed in splatters along the whale’s rosy belly. One could assume this to be his glorious tribute to improvisation and fun to an artist that can be found just upstairs, Jackson Pollock.
Perhaps the most special feature of the exhibit is the unpublished photographs of McCloskey and his family taken by Suzanne Szasz for LIFE magazine. The photos, all in black and white, were taken in 1952 at McCloskey’s house in Maine. The outbreak of the Korean War in the early 1950s left the photos unpublished. What can be seen with Szasz’s images is McCloskey’s love for nature and exploration. One image shows McCloskey walking through a shallow river, his young daughter running ahead toward towering evergreens. Another shows the illustrator leaning against a ladder while reading, a dog at his feet.
It is these small details of his life that we see joyfully echoed back in McCloskey’s work. This exhibit wonderfully captures McCloskey’s vision of the natural world and the wonderment inside a single fleeting moment. Make Way for Ducklings: The Art of Robert McCloskey is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Avenue of the Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass., until June 18, 2017. For more information, call (617) 267-9300.
By Titilayo Ngewnya
Brockton, MA – On September 10, “New Sole of the Old Machine: Steampunk Brockton, Reimagining the City of Shoes” opens at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass. Curated by Steampunk ReImagineer Bruce Rosenbaum, founder of ModVic, LLC, the exhibition features work by John Belli, Jim Bremer & Ruth Buffington, David Lang, Susan Montgomery, Janel Norris, Sam Ostroff, Bruce Rosenbaum and Michael Ulman. The show’s opening reception is this Sunday, September 11 from 2-5 p.m. Last month, Titilayo Ngwenya, the museum’s director of communications, interviewed Rosenbaum prior to the show’s opening.
TITILAYO NGWENYA: HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE STEAMPUNK?
BRUCE ROSENBAUM: For those who are new to Steampunk let me offer this simple math formula: History + Art + Technology = Steampunk. Steampunk started off as a subgenre of science fiction. It’s really a big “What if?” What if, people during the Victorian period or the industrial age had our modern technology? Steampunk is about combining and synthesizing opposites of past and present, of form and function, of art and science, even human and machine.
HOW DID YOU FIRST COME TO LOVE STEAMPUNK?
I was always interested in antiques which my mother thought was a bit odd—a 12-year-old into antiques and architectural salvage. My sisters still think that it’s odd, but I always had it in me—a connection to the past and an appreciation for how things are made.
HOW HAS ADVANCING TECHNOLOGY FUELED STEAMPUNK?
I think it’s become much more of a movement because of how people are looking at technology. These great leaps are happening, and we feel like there is a loss of control. When your clock broke, you could see how to fix it. You may not have known how exactly to fix it, but you could see that gear was not meshing right with that lever or whatever. We could view how the world worked. Now with our iPhones and our computers, if they break, we throw them away. There’s this loss of control. Steampunk is giving back that control. It’s giving you the visual and the tactile, because in this aesthetic, we are bringing the inside out. You’re seeing the guts. You’re seeing the mechanical, but then it’s also paired with our modern conveniences, so you can have the best of two worlds.
I DIDN’T REALIZE THERE WAS A WHOLE PHILOSOPHICAL ASPECT.
I think especially with millennials, there’s this whole reset of expectations now in terms of what is success. They’re looking at their parents who have a house, children, a dog, a picket fence. Because of the uncertainty in the economy and in their own lives, they’re not sure if they’re going to have that. So now it’s more about trying to find meaning in life and experiences, not in the material things. It’s going back and feeling connected to something real. And so again Steampunk is there for them, a tool to connect with the past.
FOR SOMETHING THAT SEEMS LIKE AN ODYSSEY FOR THE IMAGINATION, IT SOUNDS REALLY PRAGMATIC, USEFUL.
Most of us, as a limit of our imagination, just see what we’re looking at. We see a chair. We see a phone. But others, especially artists, are looking at it differently. They’re looking at the shape, and understanding the history and what that was. They’re looking at that object and trying to figure out a new use for it, a new purpose. It’s very liberating to look at an object that way and an incredible metaphor for our own lives. A lot of us feel obsolete, we feel like we’ve lost connection or meaning. How can we improve our own lives? Steampunk is an incredible means of self-improvement in terms of being able to adapt and change. There’s a thinking process and then the physical repurposing, actually taking something and figuring out how to reassemble it. It’s very powerful.
SO NOT JUST A PRACTICE OR A CREATIVE PROCESS?
It is a lifestyle, and it’s not like a cult or a religious type of thinking. It’s about creative problem solving. It’s called Janusian thinking. So Janusian comes from the roman god Janus pictured with two faces or heads going in opposite directions. The idea is that while you’re in the present, you’re simultaneously looking towards the future but also towards the past. I was taught about Janusian thinking and in terms of creative problem solving in marketing, but then it hit me as I started to go down the Steampunk art/design route–oh my god, this is the epitome of Janusian thinking. I’m combining past and present, form and function, art and science, human and machine. It’s all about the opposites. So Steampunk is creative problem solving, so if you get into this thinking it affects all parts of your life.
There’s actually a researcher, Albert Rothenberg. In the 1970s, he came up with Janusian thinking. He looked at inventors and problem solvers, in terms of the way that they thought to get to their solutions. He found that they weren’t linear thinkers. They weren’t looking at a problem and saying, “Here’s point A ‘problem’; here’s point B ‘solution.’ Draw a straight line you’re done.” That’s not the way its works. They were divergent thinkers, so they’re looking at two opposite solutions and figuring out a creative way to combine them, to synthesize them and come up with something new. So it’s not how we normally think. We are more linear thinkers. This is a very innovative way to problem solve.
SOUNDS LIKE A FASCINATING WORLD TO EXPLORE. HOW DO PEOPLE GET INTO STEAMPUNK?
“Well I know about a good Introduction to Steampunk Art and Design workshop (laughter). Seriously, I get that question a lot. The aesthetic has really been infecting more of our pop culture. You’re seeing it in literature, in movies, in TV. I think that’s how people start. They can’t explain why they like it. They just like it. Then people start collecting it. People start dressing. I love it when people get started in terms of having little things like gluing gears together and things like that, gears a sort of emblematic of the movement of the industrial period the gear was this incredible invention to make things work. But it goes much further than gluing gears on things. That’s just a start. You can be 6 years old and get started or you can be in your 80s. That’s the great thing about it, the diversity. From what we’ve seen from the conventions and the festivals, there’s a wide range of ages and ethnicities, and also of gender preferences. People are very tolerant.
SEEMS LIKE PEOPLE GRAVITATE TO THIS ALTERNATIVE GENRE. DO YOU THINK THAT AS IT BECOMES MORE MAINSTREAM THAT WILL POPULATION WILL CHANGE?
I think there are a lot of people who are bemoaning that fact. This is “our” movement. You get people like Justin Bieber who gets dressed up in a Steampunk outfit, and people get upset with that.
WHERE DO SEE THE FUTURE OF STEAMPUNK GOING?
Should you say retrofuture? (laughter)
YES, WHAT DO WE POSSIBLY HAVE TO LOOK BACK TO?
A lot of times people ask me “Is Steampunk a passing fad?” Once our love affair with the Victorian period goes away and Downtown Abbey goes away– I really think its going to endure on a couple of levels. Again that’s the core message of what I’m talking about the ability to adapt and be resilient. There is a piece we did for the Hotel Marlowe, a perfect example of taking a period object and imbuing it with beauty and meaning. We took one of the oldest scientific instruments on earth, an armillary, which is basically a planetary model system and brought it to a grand scale using.
ARE MAKERS, ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS THE DRIVERS OF THIS MOVEMENT? IS THERE A CREATIVE HIERARCHY?
So there are artists who are craftspeople. They’ll work in jewelry or small objects, and their joy is the repurposing aspect. It doesn’t have much functionality; it just has to be beautiful. So I think some people especially people who are right brain creative, artististic but are also left brain analytical logical, have more of an engineering mind and love to see how things work. There are these artists who look at their object, and say I really want this to do something–and then figure out a way to do it.
Their art is evolving. That is what happened to me, for I don’t have the skill sets of a traditional artist. I see myself more kid of as a visionary of tying history, art, and technology together, and coming up with a big idea, the connections, and then finding the pieces, going on a treasure hunt, and then it’s about collaborating. One of my skill sets is to be able to put together a team of people who have the skill sets an “extraordinary league of gentleman” and then find the right people to do it and then play nice. A lot of my projects, they involve metalworking people, woodworking people, electronics people, and lighting people. So that’s the way I’ve been evolving, building the teams, and collaborating to create something bigger.
SO THIS IS A VERY SPECIAL EXHIBITION AT FULLER CRAFT MUSEUM. TELL ME ABOUT IT.
I’m really connected to the shoe industry and building something now that is a level above what I had done before. What I’m hoping is that again Steampunk can be used to help to improve or repurpose a room, a house, a building, an entire city. Let’s reimagine what a post-industrial city can be. That’s what I did in Springfield, MA. Now I’m bringing that to Brockton, using Steampunk as a way to look back and celebrate the history of Brockton, but then using that to reimagine the future of Brockton. It’s not just about my vision. It’s about Brockton’s vision.
YOUR “LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN” THAT YOU HAVE ASSEMBLED FOR THIS PROJECT. DO YOU KNOW ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PARTICIPATING? ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT WORKING WITH ANYONE IN PARTICULAR?
Oh yeah, well I’m exited about all of them. They all have specific skills that I think they’re going to add different types of elements to the exhibition. One guy who is amazing to me, John Belli, lives in Sharon. He’s in his 70s. He does incredible work. I’m really excited about his piece. Then there’s a father son team, Michael and Marty Ulman. They do incredible work, and Michael the son actually was the artist that worked on an object in the new Mad Max movie. If you watch the movie, the most iconic object in the movie is this flaming guitar, there’s a guy who plays the guitar, and it shoots out fire. He made that guitar.
WHAT WILL YOUR PIECE BE ABOUT?
So for my “Humachines,” I find period meaningful pieces that are relevant to what were doing, so I wanted to have everything shoe related. I started off with this amazing shoe shining platform, which actually came from the Grand Hotel probably 1870s to 1880s. This becomes the beginning of the shoe time machine. So you’re going to sit on this piece. It’s going to be powered by this old dental compressor. People will come and sit in the Humachine, and they can take pictures of themselves in the time machine, and we make that available to them to post on social media, like a postcard. It’ll say welcome to Brockton’s past, present, future.
(“New Sole of the Old Machine: Steampunk Brockton, Reimagining the City of Shoes” runs from September 10 through January 1, 2017, at the Fuller Craft Museum, 455 Oak St., Brockton, Mass. For more information, call (508) 588-6000.)
by Brian Goslow
Boston, MA – Donna Dodson’s “Zodiac” sculptures & “Andy Moerlein: Geology” (featuring 30 new sculptural works created over the past year) goes on view today at Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., Boston. There are a series of events tied to the show, including a reception this Friday (Sept. 9) from 5-8 p.m. and “The Art of Collecting: A Forum Talk and Luncheon” sponsored by the gallery & Boston Art Dealers Association talk on Saturday (Sept. 10) from noon-2 p.m.
“Informed by Moerlein’s enthusiasm for scholars’ rocks, the ‘Geology’ will include found rocks, ceramic pieces, wood carvings, and sculptures in other media reinterpreting this ancient Chinese art form. The Chinese tradition of collecting scholars’ rocks involves the elegant presentation of precious and adored stones for contemplation and enjoyment. Often the result of artisanal intervention, the intricate structure of the stones may be deeply carved and drilled, or surfaced with smoothed facets to achieve an authentic “natural” look.
“Moerlein’s investigation of authenticity and artifice embraces many different materials and surfaces. Geology includes beautifully crafted wood and ceramics with surfaces that have been flame textured, wire brushed, carved, painted, or distressed. While many are intimate palm-sized objects, the show also features monumental sculptures.”
“In her newest body of sculptural work, Dodson has created two parallel series, referencing both the animal characters associated with the Chinese, or Eastern zodiac, as well as the sun signs of the Western zodiac. Dodson’s exhibition offers us a menagerie of compelling creatures carved in wood. Based on birth years from the beginning of time to the present day, the Chinese zodiac assigns an animal to each year in a repeating 12-year cycle. Each of the 12 animal characters is believed to possess distinct attributes. With roots in ancient Egypt and Greece, the Western zodiac is based on astrological constellations corresponding to the sun’s position at birth. Over time, each of these constellations has assumed their own unique mythological identity.
“Carving has taken a new direction in Dodson’s work, and technical surprises and breakthroughs abound. Due to a windfall of wood, she has been able to experiment, creating sculpture in woods such as mulberry, apple, spalted maple and cherry. The anthropomorphic deities in Dodson’s signature work have morphed into allegories, icons and symbols in which realism and representation play a greater role.”
For a complete rundown of related events, visit http://www.bostonsculptors.com. Boston Sculptors Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon-6 p.m.; for more information, call (617) 482-7781.
by Brian Goslow
There is a new way to reach new audiences: pop-up galleries.
For more than a decade, Johniene Papandreas has featured her own large-scale, eye-catching paintings at her Commercial Street storefront in Provincetown. Located just a few doors down from the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, it’s as prime a location for an artist looking to showcase their work as you could ask for.
This year, Papandreas decided to do things differently.
“I’m now showing at other galleries and thought I could use more concentrated time in my studio in New Hampshire to paint,” she explained. “Since I’d been researching opportunities where I could show my own work in different cities for a week at a time, it suddenly occurred to me that I could offer that opportunity to fellow artists with my gallery.
by J. Fatima Martins
With cheeky intelligence, witty bravado, and a balance of innocence and sensuality, Silver Circle Art Center presents “Big Chicks,” a collaborative exhibition — featuring the contemporary traditionalist painter Alecia Underhill and the expressive and diverse sculptor, painter and illustrator Jean-Paul Jacquet — that addresses the contentious meaning of the word “chick.” In a preview of the show, Silver Circle noted, “After all, some people like chickens, some people like chicks.”
Jacquet, who is a highly respected visual arts instructor at the prestigious Pomfret School in Pomfret, Conn. and one of the most intriguing visual artists working in New England today, is showing large-scale paper and fiberglass sculptures, some created specifically for “Big Chicks,” of highly stylized, voluptuous nude women (and one man) that are whimsical, powerful and physically aware while exploring the idea of the “sexy chick.”
Underhill, who is known for her sassy paintings of nature subjects and animals, is presenting big portraits of actual avian chicks — fluffy and cute baby chickens and ducks in a style that documents actual animal features while presenting them with a captivating undertone. Though both artists engage the subject in different manners, they are united in their focus on exploring the narrative power of anatomy with a sense of humor and absolute joy.
For Jacquet, human anatomy, particularly the female form, contains a story waiting to be told. In all his work, Jacquet takes the figure and exaggerates the features to reveal the subject’s interior emotionality and personality. He said he draws and paints people not in the manner in which they look physically, but in the manner that he reads them. Jacquet is recreating how the person has made him feel as well as exposing nuances that are often ignored in daily interaction.