Jackie Kennedy and falling apples

During our Berkshires vacation in June, we went to a place called MASS MoCA, which is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, located in North Adams, MA. Actually, we went there twice. On a Monday afternoon, we drove towards there, but , following one of those ad maps that were not to scale, thought that we had passed it, when in fact we had not. The direction “drive through a cemetery” was correct; the way we came, we passed a graveyard that was on one side of us, then another cemetery that was on one side, then on BOTH sides of us. So, by the time we got there on Monday, it was really too late to go in and get our money’s worth; the hours were 11-5 that week, though they would change to 10-6 for the summer the following week. We did, however, consume some of the ice cream made on location.

The idea of MASS MoCA really appeals to me: a bunch of old factory buildings converted into an art museum. So we returned on Wednesday, eavesdropped as a trainee described some Dutch fabric artist’s work, then went on our own.

The bulk of the time, we looked at the works of Spencer Finch, which will be on exhibit through Spring 2008, not so incidentally. The display was called Spencer Finch: What Time Is It On the Sun? Most of the pieces are very, mechanical, and I would not have “gotten” them had I not read the brochure.

For instance, for Night Sky (Over the Painted Desert, Arizona, January 11, 2004), Finch mixed a variety of paints to match the color of the night sky. After weighing the physical mass of each pigment…the artist calculated the molecular ratio of each color in the combination. With 401 incandescent bulbs of various sizes, each bulb represents a particular atom… Well, all right, then.

Here’s a paragraph from this New York Times article, that described one piece for me:
Often the work promises poetry but doesn’t deliver it, as in “Two Hours, Two Minutes, Two Seconds (Wind at Walden Pond, March 12, 2007),” a bank of ordinary white window fans stacked on top of one another. Arranged in a semicircle, the fans emit a steady breeze and an occasional gust over the time period specified by the work’s title. Mr. Finch experienced and measured these winds, using a weathervane and an anemometer, at the famous pond. It’s an interesting idea that falls flat in realization.

Lydia was getting bored. The one piece that might have been her, and thus our, salvation was the piece described here:
you first saw a square piece of green AstroTurf on the floor, upon which were scattered several red apples. Every five minutes, an apple thudded to the floor from an overhead apparatus, to make a vivid red-and-green sculpture that had a distinctly painterly appeal. Each night the apples were cleared away, so that the next day yielded a new chance pattern. Call Finch’s Composition in Red and Green a Newton machine or a mechanized rendition of an orchard in the fall, but it was surprisingly appealing to the eye. This would have captured Lydia’s attention for at least a little while, but the apple-dropping mechanism failed to drop the apples!

The one piece that worked best for both Carol and me, in spite of the impatient three-year-old, was Trying to Remember the Color of Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox Hat. Described here, it was in one small room, 100 paintings of ovals of varying hues of pink. The whole perception and memory thing came out with just the art and the title.

It wasn’t a terrible experience, as many of the pieces were intriguing. And we had ice cream again. Perhaps the adults should try to visit it again.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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