Posts Tagged ‘DeCordova’


I went to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln Friday to see what New England women had been doing with abstract art since 1950.

I was drawn to the painting above, and no wonder. It turned out to be Cynthia Bloom’s way of seeing New Shoreham, Rhode Island, my favorite place in the smallest state. The explanatory text says the artist “incorporated the natural materials and textures she found there into her work, including dried petals and butterfly wings.”

The gigantic heart sculpture looks sweet enough from a safe distance, but when you get close to Jim Dine’s “Two Big Black Hearts” (1985) and see all the broken tools, horseshoes, ladies shoes, etc., smashed roughly into the surface, you may feel a chill.

What’s nice is that on a summer’s day, you can walk in the shady woods on the deCordova grounds and see art along the paths. The serene head is “Humming,” by Jaume Plensa (2011), and the more abstract piece is “Maiden’s Dream,” by Isaac Witkin (1996). That one makes me ask, “Is it a good dream?”

After spending time on the grounds and in the galleries, I took the elevator to the roof deck and photographed the romantic turrets of what was once the home of art collector Julian de Cordova (1851-1945). I don’t think I had ever been on the roof before. The view over Flint’s Pond is amazing.


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A beautiful day is always a good excuse to walk the grounds of the deCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass., enjoying the sculptures and lake view.

A little history from the museum website: “DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is located on the former estate of Julian de Cordova (1851-1945). The self-educated son of a Jamaican merchant, Julian de Cordova became a successful tea broker, wholesale merchant, investor, and president of the Union Glass Company in Somerville, Massachusetts. Although he married into the locally prominent Dana family of Boston, Julian achieved prosperity without the advantages of inheritance or social position. …

“Inspired by his trips to Spain and his own Spanish heritage, Julian remodeled his summer home in Lincoln, Massachusetts in 1910 to resemble a European castle. …

“For Julian, the visual arts served as a medium for self-improvement and enlightenment. In his later years, he opened the doors of his estate to share the wonders he had collected during seven decades of world travel. Julian envisioned a place where art would continue to educate and excite beyond his lifetime. To meet that end, he gave his property to the town of Lincoln in 1930 with the stipulation that his estate would become a public museum of art following his death.

“Julian’s will established a committee of incorporation, whose duties included formulating the policy, objectives, and supervision of the new museum with the guidance of professionals in the field, such as the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. Independent appraisers determined that Julian’s collections were not of substantial interest or value, so the collection was sold and the proceeds were used to create a museum of regional contemporary art.”

It’s nice to have an institution that focuses on New England artists, especially one that also offers a beautiful park for families to enjoy.

The yellow cables that seem to vibrate between the concrete blocks are a startling aspect of Stephanie Cardon’s sculpture Beacon. The collection of giant leaves, by Alan Sonfist, is called The Endangered Species of New England. The purple carpet is by Mother Nature and is called Violets.










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Kate Colby (for whose offer of a room to Suzanne and Erik when they were house hunting there can never be enough gratitude) is a poet.

She came to the rescue when Suzanne was starting Luna & Stella and was having trouble finding a writer to capture the more ethereal qualities of the birthstones.

“What you need,” I said, “is a poet.”

“I know a poet!” she cried. She remembered Kate used to write copy for a catalog.

Beyond such marketing endeavors, Kate publishes poetry, choreographs offbeat theater, and co-leads art/poetry walks. An example of the latter will occur soon.

As Eryn Carlson writes at the Boston Globe, Kate is collaborating with artist Todd Shalom to offer “Duly Noted,” a participatory walk incorporating techniques from poetry, sound, and performance, at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, July 18, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Carlson comments, “Shalom and Colby know that the very nature of tours makes it easy to overlook the ways in which artworks and their settings inform one another. … The pair created the collaborative walk ‘Duly Noted,’ a poetic exchange between participants and the Lincoln museum’s site and surroundings.

“ ‘Reading the art is apt because it’s so framed by woods and walls and water, and all this history,’ said Colby, who grew up in Wayland and lives in Providence. …

“ ‘It’s all about reframing the site,’ said Shalom, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist who founded Elastic City.”

At a performance in May, “participants evolved from visitors to artists and performers. Individuals gave one-word soliloquies atop a stump, announcing their visual discoveries, and, guided by a partner, wandered the grounds with eyes closed to pay special attention to the surrounding cacophony. …

“Shalom and Colby, who met while working on their master’s degrees in fine arts at California College of the Arts, planned ‘Duly Noted’ meticulously over the course of a year, visiting the deCordova several times to perfect the route, pacing, and segues. But a degree of uncertainty and room for spontaneity remained.”

This could be a fun activity on July 18 if you live in the area. The grounds of the museum offer breathtaking views and sculptures everywhere you turn. Add to that a participatory happening like this, and you have the ingredients for a memorable day.

Read more here.

Photo: Barry Chin/Globe staff
Visitors at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum on a participatory walk titled “Duly Noted.’’

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On Sunday, my husband and I decided to see what’s new at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln.

A favorite in the biennial show of New England artists was Laura Braciale of Manchester, NH. It took me a minute, but when I realized she had displayed everyday objects along with what they looked like once she had turned them into art, I thought, Yes, art really is in everything if you look.

The blurb about her says, “close observation reveals subtle differences between the three-dimensional structures and their two-dimensional renderings. …  Her works engage a question concerning representation—which image is more ‘real’? As both her items and her illustrations occupy the same physical reality, however, Braciale’s work suggests that neither is more real than the other.” (Sigh. I’m not really fond of the way museums write.)

In a different DeCordova exhibit we saw three tintype photo portraits by the late David Prifti, Suzanne’s high school photography teacher. (A solo show in Winchester, Mass., goes through March 2, here.)

The biggest surprise was a documentary about Laos, a country we are interested in largely because of the the mystery books of Colin Cotterill. (Read one of my posts about him, here.)

The film, Route 3, shows a small mountain town that, having been leased to China for 75 years, was utterly destroyed to make way for casinos, hotels, entertainments, and jobs for Chinese people alone. Hard to imagine selling a part of your country like that, but Laos is desperately poor.

The documentary was by Patty Chang and David Kelley, who live and work in Boston and Brooklyn.

The DeCordova says on its website, “Blending the genres of documentary and road trip films with surrealist cinematic passages, Patty Chang and David Kelley present a compelling trip through the physical and psychological landscape of a community in transition. … Enlisting the help of tour guides and local entrepreneurs in this tightly controlled area, the artists immersed themselves in this community to create a unique portrait of a changing society.” More information on the artists here and here.

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A couple Sundays ago, it was so hot that all we could do was sit. When we came to ourselves, we said: Who has air conditioning besides the supermarket? Where can we go to see something interesting or entertaining without wilting?

The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is a place of wonder. It’s true that sometimes the wonder takes the form of “What the heck?!” But more often it provokes pondering and admiration. The piece below was both lovely to look at and food for thought. The artist filmed people moving obscurely behind ice. The work suggested ideas to me beyond the idea of ice (although ice itself was worth focusing on that day).

Ice often makes an appearance in art. I think of the First Night (New Year’s Eve) sculptures in Boston.  And I remember a whole ice wonderland in St. Paul one January when we lived in Minnesota. Then there is the ice story by a native of that city, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald apparently wanted to cut his ties with his hometown, but St. Paul had other thoughts, naming the theater where “A Prairie Home Companion” plays just for him, and conducting a posthumous reading of “The Great Gatsby” in his honor.

Fitzgerald’s short story “The Ice Palace” is about a southern girl who tries to adjust to the culture of her betrothed’s wintry landscape. She becomes lost and terrified in an ice palace that somehow reflects his family and his nature, and she decides her future should unfold back home in the South. I read that a long time ago, but I recall many meanings for ice in it.

Meanwhile, at the deCordova, the “Ice Cave” video seems to be about the limits of perception, about seeing through a glass darkly.

What are the people doing? we wonder. Even if we knew, would we know what it meant?

Please share your ice images with the blog.

Image from Daniel Phillips’s Ice Cave video is at the Dodge Gallery in New York.


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Nancy L. urged me to take a look at the work of Providence-based artist Anne Spalter. I found fascinating, kaleidoscopic videos and stills at various online locations.

From her artist statement: “Anne Morgan Spalter creates art works that explore her concept of the ‘modern landscape.’ The works depict modern landscape elements or ways of viewing our surroundings and use traditional materials as well as digital imaging, printing, and video.

“Spalter takes hundreds of digital photos and videos each year, often from the windows of moving cars and planes, that capture both technologically advanced ways of moving through the landscape and the modern structures that are in it …”

She is the author of The Computer in the Visual Arts, which former RI School of Design president Roger Mandle described as, “a seductively articulate and illuminating introduction to the rapidly expanding world of the computer and art, design, and animation.”

She and her husband are collectors of early computer art. “In early 2011, the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA,  exhibited works curated from the collection,” notes Spalter’s c.v. MoMA has shown pieces from the collection, too.

This video, called I95, will amaze anyone who has driven that daunting thoroughfare.

Find some stills from videos by Anne Spalter here.

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A few favorites from a rainy day at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park.

We also liked the Andy Goldsworthy and the Caleb Neelon artwork.

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While I was taking my morning walks elsewhere, The Greenway seems to have sprouted sculpture — and in the very spot where mere weeks ago, a sign warned “Grass is Resting” and invited me to hang my art on the rope.

The DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass., is behind the transformation.

I love that the creator of the toothy beaver and the literary opossum is called Otter-Something. Tom Otterness.

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