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38 Lanterns for MASS MoCA’s NYC Gala

All images and text excerpted from coombscriddle.wordpress.com.

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Last winter, local glass artist Debora Coombs was onsite at MASS MoCA for a few weeks, faux-painting and 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 Waterston 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.

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Darren Waterston, painting landscapes onto glass

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Coombs and Waterston at the NYC Gala in October

Learn more about Darren Waterston’s MASS MoCA exhibition Uncertain Beauty here and visit Coombs’ website to learn more about the glass process and her work.

Posted December 3, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Darren Waterston: Uncertain Beauty, Design, Exhibitions, Local Artists
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Inside Moisture Content

By Hannah Pivo

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 it’s one of four works that make up Lee Boroson’s exhibition Plastic Fantastic, currently on view in Building 5, MASS MoCA’s largest gallery space. For this exhibition, the artist used an array of manufactured materials — plastics, fabrics, glass, and goo — 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.

Blog-Moisture_Content1 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, I’ve faced my fair share of odd assignments — most of them for this exhibition. I’ve placed strange online orders for items such as flanges and portable dust collectors and goo (who knew goo was available for bulk purchase?). I’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. I’ve packed materials in trash bags and labeled them “THIS IS ART — PLEASE DON’T TRASH” because they really did look just like trash. So, when I joined MASS MoCA’s fantastic art fabrication crew for the last two weeks of Boroson’s installation, I was ready for things to get a little strange. What resulted was a particularly close acquaintance with Moisture Content, the artist’s stunning recreation of the experience of moving through fog.

Blog-Moisture_Content2A peek at what lays beyond the white curtains… 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 artwork’s glimmering core — 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.

Blog-Moisture_Content3 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 Weezer’s Blue Album. For direction, Lee told us to imagine water molecules moving randomly through space. “Think water, think fog, think Moisture Content,” 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 that’s a near match. If you look closely, you’ll notice that two different cords — one flat and one round — are used in Moisture Content.

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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 “fog.” 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.

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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 exhibition’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 Frozen 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 artist’s success in constructing a foggy sense of disorientation.

Blog-Moisture_Content6 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 MoCA’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.

Blog-Moisture_Content7 Enjoying the opening reception with Harriet Lauritsen-Smith (center) and Lauren Clark (right). Photo by Jane Burns.

Lee Boroson’s Plastic Fantastic is now on view in MASS MoCA’s Building 5 gallery through September 7, 2015.

Posted October 22, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns, Lee Boroson: Plastic Fantastic
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Peeping Leaves from a New Perspective: Your Guide to a Fabulous Fall Weekend in the Northern Berkshires

By Julia Leonardos

Bags of apples straight from the orchard line your pantry. Your stoop is overrun with decorative gourds and festive hay bales. You’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. That’s right, folks, fall is upon us: nature’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 I’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.

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After a while, though, staring at trees can get a little boring. We get it — 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. That’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. Here’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 MoCA’s Hunter Center for The Source, Beth Morrison Projects’ latest music-theater work-in-progress. It’s all about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’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.

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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 Boroson’s Plastic Fantastic, in Building 5, our largest gallery space (yes, that’s the gallery where Xu Bing’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 hero 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.
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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 you’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.

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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 photos so your friends know that you did, in fact, take in some foliage during your fall weekend in the northern Berkshires.

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Posted October 9, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Berkshires, BLOG, Exhibitions, Lickety Split, North Adams, Openings, Theater, Uncategorized
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A Day in the World of Art Fabrication: Lee Boroson Edition

By Kelly Cave

Here at MASS MoCA we have an excellent team of art fabricators that assist artists in the creation and installation of their work. Depending on the size of the exhibition,  the museum may hire contractors and interns to provide an extra hand to the full-time fabrication staff. Currently, a fantastic rotation of interns is coming through to assist with the work of Lee Boroson. Boroson’s show will be installed in September, but there’s much to do before we’re ready for that. This particular piece of the exhibition is going to be a giant inflatable made up of thousands of circles that will fill part of our huge Building 5 gallery. Here is an inside look at how the sculpture is being constructed!

So far we have a couple thousand circles sewn in five different sizes. Here they are stacked according to size and pattern of holes cut out on the surface.
The Circles
To make a completed circle we first roll out some fabric and double it up. The fabric is a nylon similar to the material from which parachutes or tents are made. We then place templates of circles on the fabric and trace them with a marker. Next, we put a few pins in each circle to ensure that the two pieces of fabric stay together once the circles are cut out.
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Once the circles have been cut out they are sent over to my good friend, Sergio the Serger. He is a crazy-fast sewing machine that cuts the fabric while making a sturdy seam along the edge. He uses five threads as opposed to a regular sewing machine that only uses two. If you’re interested, I suggest looking up what the inside of a serger looks like because it is very delicate and quite stunning.
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After the circles have been sewn, de-pinned, stacked, and cut with the proper pattern of holes, they are ready to be sealed. We use a special spreadable mixture that’s placed along the outer seam to help fuse the circles together. Sometimes this step can be a little harsh on the sinuses so we like to use respirators as a precaution.
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When the sealing has dried it is time for the final step, which is to put the circles together. We use the serger to make different clusters that build off of each other from large to small. In the photo below we have our confused interns sporting one of these clusters in its deflated state. Turns out you can’t blow up this inflatable like a balloon! 
finished product
Those are all the secrets that the Fab team is willing to give away at the moment, but make sure to get on over to MASS MoCA in the fall to find out what the final product will look like! Lee Boroson’s show will be in the Building 5 Gallery, beginning October 2014 and you can read more about it here. See you then!
Interns pictured: Keenan Cassidy (RISD), Georgia Costigan (MCLA), Barbara Gooding (RISD), Garcia Sinclair (RISD), Nafis White (RISD)

 

Posted June 18, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Exhibitions, Uncategorized
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Tree Logic Right-side Up

By Joseph Thompson
Director, MASS MoCA

Last Sunday our family took a picnic hike up Stone Hill to check out progress on Tadao Ando’s work at the Clark, and on the way up we visited Natalie Jeremijenko’s first-generation Tree Logic.

Joe's Trees

By first generation, I mean five of the first six Blaze Maples that Natalie drafted into service for the upside-down bio-sculpture that marks the entrance to MASS MoCA’s front door.  The “girls” are doing just fine, by the way, fully budded and regal.  (John Carli of our staff declared them to be girls, not me, but he has earned full rights to impart whatever gender he wants, since he’s tended the trees over these past 15 years).  It’s interesting:  with each passing year there is less and less evidence of Gen 1’s initial existence as experimental indices – the resultant vectors of the gravitropic force of an earth from which they were liberated and the phototropic force of a sun to which they yearned.  That’s my daughter, Izzy, enduring a phototropic effect all her own.

As we looped around Stone Hill, and onto the pastures above The Clark, this exciting view opened up.

Joe Clark

As you can just make out looking through the screen of bare trees, a stack of three trapezoidal reflecting pools/skating rinks have recently been lined with a bright white material:  The geometric shapes are commanding in scale, and central to the overall Ando design, which is in many ways more about landscape, and the framing of views, than about buildings.  The Clark was brave and correct to have retained the pools within the project scope, when I’m sure there were many opportunities along the way to lose them in the name of value engineering.

Walking past the construction site, it occurred to me that our friends at the Clark are probably a bit nervous with the number of heavy vehicles still lingering on their site this spring, but it is always amazing how much work gets done in two months … especially landscaping, which comes together fast, and at the last minute.

This great project is transformative in so many ways, important to all the Berkshires, but especially to those of us within its immediate orbit. I suggest a walk on Stone Hill before the greening of the trees to take it in:  The ambition and etched precision of the project become immediately clear from a high southerly vantage point.  And see if you can find the Tree Logic Gen 1 on the way up.  That’s Trainer and Jennifer with Izzy.

Posted May 1, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, North Adams, Staff, Tree Logic
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So you want to… be a curator.

Have resumes and cover letters become your (least) favorite new hobby? Times are tough out there for recent graduates and young professionals – competition is fierce and you can’t be an intern forever.  In our new blog series, So you want to…, our museum staff offers advice and inspiration for pursuing an arts career. Don’t worry– all those applications will eventually turn into an interview!

Denise Markonish has curated multiple exhibitions at MASS MoCA, including, most recently, Oh Canada, the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside of Canada. With Susan Cross, she co-edited the book Sol LeWitt: 100 Views (Yale University Press) in conjunction with MASS MoCA’s monumental Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective exhibit. Prior to her work at MASS MoCA, Markonish curated at Artspace (New Haven, CT), the Fuller Museum (Brockton, MA), and the Main Line Art Center (Haverford, PA). Markonish earned her Bachelor’s degree at Brandeis University and her Master’s degree at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

I don’t think it was so much advice as just watching how others negotiated the art world. Early on, when I was around 19 years old, I interned at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University; I remember that the director at the time, Carl Belz, once pulled me aside and brought me into the storage vault. He pulled out one painting after the next and asked me what I thought. It took me a moment to realize that he really did want my opinion. This was extremely powerful—to realize that no matter what my age or experience, my opinion and ideas around art mattered. I think this has stayed with me and influences how I operate today.

I was told early on that it doesn’t matter where you are; you can bring great art everywhere. Starting out in the art field, I think everyone thinks you have to go to NYC to make it. I purposely never went there and have had amazing experiences bringing art to different communities.

What was a formative art experience for you as a young person?

When I was a high school senior at Brockton High School (Brockton, MA), we went on a field trip to the Fuller Art Museum. I remember we met with the curator, and I had no idea that it was actually a job. It was at that moment that I knew what I wanted to do.

I had another key art moment when I was much younger as well, but I don’t think I realized how important it was until decades later… when I was about 12 years old, I went on a family vacation in Toronto and saw two public sculptures: one on the side of the Toronto Sky Dome of photographers leaning out of a box to take pictures of the crowd below and the other in Eaton Centre (a large shopping mall) of Canadian geese flying in the air. Later I would realize that these were both sculptures by Michael Snow, one of the most important living Canadian artists. I figured this out in college after seeing Michael’s film “Wavelength,” probably one of my all time favorites. I am so lucky to have worked with Michael once in Connecticut and then again in MASS MoCA’s Oh, Canada exhibition.

What is the biggest shift you have witnessed in the museum field?

I think the biggest shift I have seen in the museum field as of late is the rise of the biennial exhibition. It seems like in the last decade there are twice as many international biennials than before. I have yet to decide if I think this is a good or a bad thing. In theory, getting art out there and taking stock of it is great, but it seems that a lot of the same artists are on this circuit, which makes it seems a little predicable to me. That was one of the main reasons I chose to do the Oh, Canada show, as these were artists that I didn’t feel were getting the same attention on this biennial circuit.

If you could work in any other field, what would it be? Why?

I don’t think could actually or would actually ever want to do anything else. I love what I do and feel very lucky to be able to do it!

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on artists. (Our director, Joe Thompson said the same thing!)

Do you have questions for next week’s So you want to…? Tweet them @MASS_MoCA!

Posted December 18, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Canada, Exhibitions, Interns, Museum Education, Oh Canada, Staff, Uncategorized
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