Last week, MASS MoCA was lucky enough to have Helado NegroÂ (the moniker for musician Roberto Lange) in residency working on the next installment of hisÂ Island Universe Story. Roberto and his musical collaborators, Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco, Jason Ajemian and Jason Trammell of the William Onyeabor Atomic Bomb Band, and Oliver Chapoy of Certain Creatures, spent six days in our studios before performing on Saturday night. Here’s a video of Roberto discussing his project and what it’s like to create and collaborate at MASS MoCA.
Yesterday, Roberto announced that he was a recipient of the Joyce Award for 2015, along with previously exhibiting MASS MoCA artists Nari Ward and Sanford Biggers. HisÂ award will be used to produce the upcoming performance of Island Universe StoryÂ as part ofÂ the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series in March. The Joyce Award allows the SPCO to partner with Helado Negro to bring this groundbreaking, Latin-inspired sonic performance to new audiences with a group of world class musicians who have performed with Wilco, Stereolab,Â and David Byrne.
Roberto, we couldn’t be happier for you. Congratulations!
As the holiday season whips by in a flurry of flash sales and, well, flurries, it can be easy to get carried away in the â€śgettingâ€ť and forget to be thankful for all that we already have. As our fifteenth year becomes our sixteenth year, the staff here at MASS MoCA looks back with gratitude on twelve monthsâ€™ worth of programming, residencies, and exhibits. From music festivals to educational workshops to large-scale art installations, here are the moments from 2014 that weâ€™re the most thankful for:
Last winter, local glass artist Debora CoombsÂ was onsite at MASS MoCA for a few weeks, faux-painting andÂ creating gold texture for interior surfaces in Darren Waterston’s Uncertain Beauty exhibition at MASS MoCA. For the museum’s annual gala this fall, Coombs and WaterstonÂ showed off their latest collaboration, a sold-out edition of 38 hand-made lanterns.
Here’s a peek inside Coombs’ studio and the lantern-making process.
Darren Waterston, painting landscapes onto glass
Coombs and Waterston at the NYC Gala in October
Learn more about Darren Waterston’s MASS MoCA exhibition Uncertain Beauty hereÂ and visit Coombs’ website to learn more about the glass process and her work.
MASS MoCAâ€™s Assets for Artists program is in its seventh year of helping Massachusetts artists build financial stability and entrepreneurial success. Founded in 2008, Assets for Artists is a matched-savings and entrepreneurship training program for low-income artists in all disciplines. If you are a Massachusetts artist and you are eligible to apply, donâ€™t miss out. Assets for Artists is accepting applications through November 7, 2014!
Assets for Artists helps artists access capital, grow their artistic ventures, and gain the financial stability that promotes creative freedom. Artists selected to participate in 2014 will benefit from a â€śmatched savingsâ€ť program that provides $2,000 in grant funding, two free professional development workshops, and one-on-one business and financial counseling, including support in writing a business plan.
The program, born from MASS MoCAâ€™s commitment to community revitalization through the arts, was piloted at home in Berkshire County, enrolling nine local artists during its first year. Today, Assets for Artists â€” administered by MASS MoCA in collaboration with ArtHome, the Midas Collaborative, and many local partners â€” has expanded to serve nearly 200 artists across the state of Massachusetts and in New York City, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine. Here are just a few of the Massachusetts artists we enrolled last year:
Scout Cuomo, Painting
Leah Zelnick, Music
Will Alderfer, Metal Work
Anna Jo Beck, Illustration
Sophie Wood, Performance Art
Gemma Farrell, Ceramics
From now until November 7, Assets for Artists is accepting applications from low-income creative entrepreneurs throughout the state of Massachusetts. To learn more and to download the application, visit the Assets for Artists website.
I recently spent three days inside a work of art. Yes, literally inside of it. The piece, an enormous labyrinth of fabric and plastic, is called Moisture Content, and itâ€™s one of four works that make up Lee Borosonâ€™s exhibitionÂ Plastic Fantastic, currently on view in Building 5, MASS MoCAâ€™s largest gallery space. For this exhibition, the artist used an array of manufactured materials â€” plastics, fabrics, glass, and goo â€” to create immersive environments that replicate natural phenomena, including a waterfall, an underground cavern, a lava field, and fog. Together, they offer a thought-provoking commentary on the relationship between humans and the environment, both natural and built.
Lee Boroson, Moisture Content, 2014, fabric, acrylic, mylar, Lexan, aluminum, webbing, cord, variable dimensions. Photo by Andreas Engel.
As the Visual Arts Intern at MASS MoCA, Iâ€™ve faced my fair share of odd assignments â€” most of them for this exhibition. Iâ€™ve placed strange online orders for items such as flanges and portable dust collectors and goo (who knew goo was available for bulk purchase?). Iâ€™ve shown up without an appointment at a large chemical manufacturing plant, hoping to track down the salesman who promised us bottles of flowable silicone sealant. Iâ€™ve packed materials in trash bags and labeled them â€śTHIS IS ART â€” PLEASE DONâ€™T TRASHâ€ť because they really did look just like trash. So, when I joined MASS MoCAâ€™s fantastic art fabrication crew for the last two weeks of Borosonâ€™s installation, I was ready for things to get a little strange. What resulted was a particularly close acquaintance with Moisture Content, the artistâ€™s stunning recreation of the experience of moving through fog.
A peek at what lays beyond the white curtainsâ€¦ Richard Criddle (left) and Mason Hurley (right) hard at work and looking splendid in khaki. Photo by Lauren Clark.
Moisture Content was built from the inside out. First, a series of giant concentric wooden rings were mounted to the ceiling. Inner layers of gauzy fabric came next, followed by the artworkâ€™s glimmering core â€” a cluster of spheres made of thin metal rods and origami-folded plastic circles. Now these globes dangle tantalizingly from the ceiling, but their assembly was a painstaking process. At the center of each one hides a clear plastic ball punctured by carefully drilled holes. Hundreds of plastic circles were cut and folded, then attached to metal rods using itsy-bitsy nuts and washers. The rods were then screwed, one by one, into the drill holes in the plastic spheres. At the end of the day, the tips of my fingers were numb from twisting and turning the rods into place. With these sparkling globes in position, the rest of the layers of fabric could be hung, and Moisture Content really began to take shape.
Posing in Building 5 with my favorite fellow shop girl, Lauren Clark. Photo by Lauren Clark.
The central fabric portion of Moisture Content is flanked on both sides by a galaxy of suspended orbs. Each sphere is made of dozens of plastic cones of various sizes, all held together with staples. The fabulous Lauren Clark and I hung hundreds of these spheres from nylon shoelaces dangling from the ceiling while jamming to The Pixies and Weezerâ€™s Blue Album. For direction, Lee told us to imagine water molecules moving randomly through space. â€śThink water, think fog, think Moisture Content,â€ť he said. Work halted when we ran out of shoelaces. I was sent on a mission to get more, and discovered that though you can buy mass quantities of goo on the Internet, you sadly cannot purchase shoelaces in bulk at the drop of a hat. So, I found a nylon cord at the hardware store thatâ€™s a near match. If you look closely, youâ€™ll notice that two different cords â€” one flat and one round â€” are used in Moisture Content.
Hanging out with some plastic spheres. Photo by Lauren Clark.
I thought the piece was nearly complete, but when I arrived the next morning, I noticed that something had changed. Lee had pinned together many of the outer layers of fabric, transforming the central column into a maze. Suddenly, it was all too easy to get lost in the â€śfog.â€ť Lee used safety pins to adjust the length of the curtains and join them together, and each of the pins needed to be replaced with a few stitches of nylon thread. I mentioned that I had experience hand-sewing ribbons onto pointe shoes from my years dancing ballet in high school, so without delay I was put to the task.
Sewing curtains inside Moisture Content. Photo by Harriet Lauritsen-Smith.
I spent the next three days sewing inside of Moisture Content. I had some helpers along the way, including the exhibitionâ€™s curator, Denise Markonish, whom I had the pleasure of teaching how to sew. I also had a lot of time alone. I imagined myself empress of an icy fortress (both Queen Elsa from FrozenÂ and Queen Frostine from Candy Land came to mind). Occasionally, people would wander through, struggling to find Lee or Denise hidden inside. Their confused efforts at navigation were an early indicator of the artistâ€™s success in constructing a foggy sense of disorientation.
Moisture Content (detail), 2014. Photo by Andreas Engel.
The final step to perfecting Moisture Content? A good old-fashioned steaming. Lingering creases covered the shiny, perforated pieces of fabric that hang near the center of the piece. These twist and turn as you move past, and they were in desperate need of de-wrinkling. I lugged a standing steamer (borrowed from the fine folks in MASS MoCAâ€™s performing arts department), a chair, and a rolling cart around the inner circle of the artwork, because both the steamer and I needed to be elevated to reach the highest parts of the fabric. And with that, Moisture Content was complete, ready for visitors to wander and ponder, just hopefully not for three days.
Enjoying the opening reception with Harriet Lauritsen-Smith (center) and Lauren Clark (right). Photo by Jane Burns.
Lee Boroson’sÂ Plastic FantasticÂ is now on view in MASS MoCA’s Building 5 gallery through September 7, 2015.
Bags of apples straight from the orchard line your pantry. Your stoop is overrun with decorative gourds and festive hay bales. Youâ€™ve swapped your shorts and t-shirts for cardigans and lacquered leather boots. You spent the last three hours bushwhacking your way out of a corn maze, your house smells like the Yankee Candle store and Starbucks had a baby, and the Monday Night Football theme song echoes constantly throughout your hallways. Thatâ€™s right, folks, fall is upon us: natureâ€™s final, fiery burst of beauty before crisp air turns frigid and brilliant trees become barren.
Fall is a pretty big deal out here in the northern Berkshires and so is the weekend that lands closest to the date of October 12. Some call it Columbus Day Weekend, but Iâ€™ll refer to it as most Berkshire locals do: the peak of leaf-peeping season. Yes, it is this weekend that the leaf peepers pack up their cars and head to the Berkshires from all directions to see the leaves at their most vivid. And we welcome you, leaf peepers, with open arms, warm hearts, and plenty of picture-perfect landscapes for you to Instagram, no filter required.
After a while, though, staring at trees can get a little boring. We get it â€” you might get hungry, decide to do some activities, or feel a sudden, overwhelming urge to stare at something else (maybe some art?) for a few hours. Thatâ€™s where we come in. MASS MoCA and a bevy of other northern Berkshire institutions are here for you if (and when) you decide you want to peep some leaves from a new perspective this weekend. Hereâ€™s our guide for the upcoming fall weekend, designed to enhance your leaf peeping with art, events, food, and merriment…
Day 1: Friday, October 10 Arrive at the Porches Inn in North Adams, MA, after work, then, head to Public for dinner and drinks. By 8pm, be at MASS MoCAâ€™s Hunter Center for The Source, Beth Morrison Projectsâ€™ latest music-theater work-in-progress. Itâ€™s all about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manningâ€™s decision to leak the most classified material ever released to the public, and the worldwide media hysteria that ensued. The Source premieres at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on October 22, so this is an exclusive chance to be a part of the process and see the show before it premieres.
Day 2: Saturday, October 11
View the Radical Words, Make it New, and Raw Color exhibitions at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown before they come down. In the evening, head back to MASS MoCA for the opening reception of Lee Borosonâ€™s Plastic Fantastic, in Building 5, our largest gallery space (yes, thatâ€™s the gallery where Xu Bingâ€™s Phoenix was) at 5pm. You can make reservations for the reception here. Next up, just a few steps away in Building 10, is guitar heroÂ Gary Lucas, who is playing his original live score to the 1935 Chinese cinematic touchstone The Goddess (for only the second time in North America!) up in Club B-10, starting at 8pm. That leaves you plenty of time to chow down on some burritos/sandwiches/ice cream at Lickety Split in between the opening and the show.
Day 3: Sunday, October 12 In the morning, dive into the 900-acre Berkshire wood for some up-close and personal leaf-peeping at Ramblewild forest adventure park. You can zipline, swing, climb, and slide from tree to tree on one of their many forest trails. If youâ€™re like me and you want to have both of your feet on solid ground as often as humanly possible, you can also (free of charge) take a meditative walk in the forest as you watch the other members of your party jump from tree to tree above you.
In the afternoon, head to the MASS MoCA galleries to relax and rejuvenate by taking in all of our exhibitions at your own pace. As you head home, look out your car window and admire the rolling Berkshire mountain range that has inspired so many literary greats, and Instagram a couple photosÂ so your friends know that you did, in fact, take in some foliage during your fall weekend in the northern Berkshires.