Curator Denise Markonish blogs about her recent trip to Ohio.
Who knew there were so many connections between Columbus, OH, Portland, ME and North Adams, MA? This was proven to me last week when I went to Columbus on the invitation of the graduate painting department at Ohio State University. All roads in this weird atlas lead to Sean Foleyâ€¦ visitors to MASS MoCA may remember Seanâ€™s installation Ruse that was up in our Hunter Hallway for the last year (sadly just taken down). Sean and I go way backâ€¦ we met in 2001 when he was teaching at the Maine College of Art. He has since moved to Ohio and lured a good number of Mainers out there with him (including Patrick Oâ€™Rorke and Sage Lewis who were both Seanâ€™s students in Maine and now are at OSU). Other than Seanâ€™s connection to me and MASS MoCA, I also got to see Katie Bullock who assisted Sean on his installation and Ann Hamilton, who lives in Columbus, teaches at OSU and exhibited hereÂ at MASS MoCA in 2004. And last but not least, for those of you who remember The Bureau for Open Culture who resided at MASS MoCA last summer, well they started in Columbus as well!
I arrived in Columbus on February 8th, and was almost immediately taken to Jeniâ€™s Ice Cream, a Columbus institution with flavors like salty caramel, wild berry lavender and lime cardamom! I then got to hang out with Sean and his wife Cindy (who is the head of education at the Columbus Museum of Art) and their two awesome kids Emmett and Adie.
On Thursday I started the day doing a studio visit with artist MJ Bole. MJ has done many hilarious installations on sanitation systems and toilet history, and is currently working on a project for Columbusâ€™s bicentennial celebration. MJ is looking at depictions of Christopher Columbus used to market the city over the years as well as delving into the history of the city as a test market for products (see more about his history here). After some studio visits with the graduate students in painting, MJ took Sean, Katie, Emmett and me to the State of Ohio Asylum for the Insane Cemetery, an off-the-beaten-path cemetery from the late 1800s in which prisoners are buried (they also carved the grave stones).
Friday was filled with studio visits â€“ the students (in painting but also glass, sculpture and photography) are addressing ideas of perception, wonder and materiality. At a break before lunch I visited the Columbus Museum of Art and there I got to see Seanâ€™s installation for the â€śWonder Room,â€ť part of the Museumâ€™s new education center.
After lunch I headed over to the Wexner Center for the Arts, where I would give a lecture that afternoon. Check out this great lecture poster that Sage Lewis made for the event:
I visited the Tony Smith exhibition and was please to see Michael Snowâ€™s video Solar Breath (Northern Caryatids) in their video room.Â This same piece will be in the upcoming Oh, Canada exhibition opening at MASS MoCA in May of 2012. After my talk it was off to dinner at Ann Hamilton and Michael Mercilâ€™s studio, a potluck prepared by the graduate students. It was an elegant evening full of good food and great conversation!
My last day in Columbus began with breakfast with Wexner curator Bill Horrigan, and from there Katie and I went to the Museum of Biological Diversityâ€™s open house. There we got to see all sorts of species native to Ohio and even got to hold some bugs.
This field trip tugged at the natural history nerd inside of me.
And finally before heading to the airport I did a studio visit with painter Laura Lisbon. We had a great conversation of about invisibility and the painterly tableau and then visited two shows, Bending the Mirror and Home, at the Columbus College of Art and Design. A perfect end to a trip filled with art, science, history, good food, terrific conversations and great friends.