FINDING “HIDDEN GEMS” OFF-SITE: A Unique New BOLLI Course

FINDING “HIDDEN GEMS” OFF-SITE

By Elaine Dohan and Class Participants

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“Hidden Gems” participants at the Addison Gallery of American Art at Andover Academy.  (From left:  Anne Walker, Fran Goldberg, Diane Winkelman, Hannah Delfiner, Sandy Traiger, Elaine Dohan, Lenore Goldstein, Tamara Chernow, Joyce Plotkin, Helen Kadish, Patsy Benincasa.)

Years ago, Tamara Chernow, Eileen Mitchell, and I planned and organized docent-led tours of many different museums located in the area.  Lunch was always included, and sometimes buses were provided as well.  These outings were very popular for social as well as educational reasons.  It was a huge job, and I guess you could say we “wore out.”  Eventually, though, it seemed to be something worth bringing back to life.  The result?  Hidden Gems, the very first “off site” BOLLI course designed to tap into the rich cultural community we enjoy here in the Boston area.

This term, participants in our five-week Hidden Gems course traveled to museums with excellent docents who expanded upon the readings that the group read preceding their visits.  But the first meeting of the course took place at 60 Turner Street when Nancy Alimansky provided our introductory lecture.  She really set the stage for the course, offering us tips on how to “access” pieces of art.  She focused on aspects of contemporary and modern art, providing slides and referring to the greatest of these artists.  She even referred to the wonderful photographs hanging in the Blue Room, executed by our own artists and available to us all the time.  Nancy clearly knows and loves her subject, making her the perfect example of what makes a good teacher.

After that wonderful opening session, we embarked on our visits to the Addison Gallery at Andover Academy, the Fuller Craft Museum, the Davis Museum on the Wellesley College campus, and Brandeis’ own Rose Gallery.   Lenore Goldstein, Anne Walker, Joyce Plotkin, and Diane Winkelman have provided some details about each of our visits to these gems.

AT THE ADDISON GALLERY OF AMERICAN ART

By Lenore Goldstein

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The Addison Gallery of American art was created by alumnus Thomas Cochran “to enrich permanently the lives of the students of Phillips Academy.”  The Gallery is a teaching resource as well as an art center for the students and faculty of the Academy, for other students, teachers and scholars and for the general public. Its collection of more than 17000 objects of American art dating from the 18th century to the present is one of the most comprehensive in the world.

Our BOLLI class visited two exhibits—“Manzanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams” and  “Eye on the Collection:  Fall, 2016.”  We were led by a terrific docent who gave us insight into many of the pieces in the museum’s collection.  But it is the Manzanar exhibit that stays with me.

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Manzanar was one of the War Relocation Centers during World War II.  The purpose of Adams’s photographs was to provide propaganda showing that the Japanese (who, for the most part, were American citizens) suffered a great injustice but created a vital community within the Relocation Center in the desert.  Most of his photographs were of happy, productive families engaging in happy, productive activities.  That upset me.  I understood Adams’ motive, but I couldn’t put behind me that the Japanese were prisoners who had been kicked out of their homes, lost their jobs, their possessions, their lives.  And of course I thought of the Holocaust.

This museum has so much to offer.   Opening this week is an exhibit called “The Deception of Perception.”  It focuses on distortion and ambiguity in photography.   This “Hidden Gem” is well worth a trip to Andover.

THE FULLER CRAFT MUSEUM

By Anne Walker;  photos by Hannah Delfiner

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Who knew?  Wonders abound in the Metrowest, and I barely knew it!  For instance, Brockton has one of the very few museums devoted entirely to “work of the hand.”

Fuller Craft Museum was an eye- opening experience.  From the ultra-edgy “Steam Punk” installations to an appealing gift shop, it is a marvelous surprise.  Gorgeous, satiny finishes on contemporary furniture, sensuous wood-grained bowls and platters, books recycled into expertly detailed hand-cut constructions were a source of unexpected delight as well.

One of the most surprising aspects of the Fuller Craft museum is that it is sited on a beautiful lake with walking trails and an outdoor collection of sculptures which we must see in the spring!

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THE DAVIS MUSEUM AT WELLESLEY COLLEGE

by Joyce Plotkin with gallery photos byHannah Delfiner

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Our trip to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College was timed beautifully – just after a three-year transformation of the galleries was completed – which enabled the Museum to double the number of art works on display.  The Davis, opened in 1993, was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and features art objects from antiquity to the modern day.

We started in the basement of the museum and first saw an exhibit titled Partners in Design:  Alfred Barr and Philip Johnson.  Barr, who taught the first undergraduate art course in modern art at Wellesley College, and Johnson, Museum of Modern Art’s first curator of architecture, together were responsible for bringing modernism to North America in the form of the German Bauhaus movement which concentrated on stripping down objects to their simplest form (with no ornamentation) and focused on rational and functional design.  The exhibit contains furniture from both Barr’s and Johnson’s apartments including a cantilevered chair that, when viewed at a particular angle, looks like it is floating on air.

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Also on display were examples of kitchen and household objects stemming from the movement that was active in the 1920’s and early 30’s but was ultimately shut down by the Communists.  It was interesting to me to see this phase of Philip Johnson’s work, as my husband and I recently saw, in Madrid, the Gate of Europe towers –the first inclined skyscrapers in the world – designed by Johnson and another colleague and completed in 1996. It was described by our tour guide as a building that typified the architecture of the future.

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Our second stop was the top floor of the museum which hosted the most recent works of art in a beautifully re-decorated, very inviting, high-ceilinged gallery with natural light pouring in from the skylights above.  As we entered the gallery, we were met by a terrific Alexander Calder mobile hanging from the ceiling and wandered through the fifth floor gallery observing a pairing of great paintings by Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner, interesting representative works by female artists Grandma Moses, Helen Frankenthaler and Louise Nevelson, a boldly colored Andy Warhol sculpture of Brillo and Campbell soup boxes as well as wonderful offerings by Picasso, de Kooning, and many others.  Personally, what delighted me beyond the wonderful art was the fact that the Museum featured the works of numerous women.  I hope the museum continues and expands the trend of acquiring and displaying works of art by women.

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Since we did not have time to see the whole museum during our class time, my husband and I went back to the Davis two days after this visit to see all of the exhibits.  We were delighted with the European and American exhibits and definitely recommend the Davis as an interesting destination for other BOLLI members.

 

THE HIDDEN GEM IN OUR OWN BACK YARD:  

THE ROSE GALLERY

by Diane Winkelman

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BOLLI’s new “Hidden Gems” class ended with the jewel in our own back yard.  We were treated to a curator/docent led tour of the exhibits currently on view at the Rose.   Learning about contemporary art with a curator who had recently come from the Museum of Modern Art in New York was extraordinary.   Our initial view of the museum was of David Reed’s painting – from afar and then close up. The experiences were dramatically different. We learned about his use of paint to create large dramatic canvases that had never been seen all together in one room until this show at the Rose.

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Each gallery had a show by a different artist.   Sarah Sze’s: Timekeeper combined sculpture, installation art, and painting to produce a visually fascinating statement about time and perception.

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Timekeeper

Do go and explore the rest. If you get fatigued in museums, don’t  forget to rest in Mark Dion’s room installation ” The Undisciplined Collector” … a permanent room installation that might make you feel right at home.

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The Undisciplined Collector

 

Thank you, Elaine, for a wonderful experience!

Diane Winkelman, Tamara Chernow, Anne Walker, Joyce Plotkin, Elaine Dohan, Helen Kadish, Hannah Delfiner, Sandy Traiger, Fran Goldberg, Lenore Goldstein