A Visit to MASS MoCA (Or: What I Imagine it’s like to do Drugs)

MoCA

Richard Nonas “The Man in the Empty Space” – MASS MoCA

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is an incredibly large complex in North Adams, Mass. From the outside it is industrial and impressive – both for its visual qualities and its sheer size. The worn red brick buildings look like a place where one could easily find themselves lost. The inside takes this historic aesthetic and flips it on its head, as the museum contains some of the newest and most exciting contemporary art in the nation. The sense of other-worldliness created by the strange relationship between the outside of the building and the inside is to an extent which I have never experienced in any other context.

Featuring many great artists and thought-provoking installations, this museum is contemporary art at its finest. It is Mecca for the contemporary art buff. During my visit, I enjoyed the extensive Sol LeWitt collection, as well as the Loony-Tunes-meets-Tim-Burton world created by Alex Da Corte’s “Free Roses”. It was an experience that was polarizing when compared against the installation which most captured me, called “The Man in the Empty Space” by Richard Nonas.

My thoughts while viewing – or rather: experiencing – the piece (and after) are as follows:

I am alive among the ruins, walking on the cracked and weathered ground. Around me are constellations that would burn if they were to come into contact with their counterparts in the sky. They are earth-stars. And I am a space woman – wandering between them, basking in their wood-light. Whether I am surrounded by piano keys or railroad tracks or something altogether else, these things on the ground hum with soul music. And among all of these neutrals, my color says: “I am here.”

I come out of the museum buzzing, almost able to feel my eyes dilating, with memories of sound still echoing in my head. I realize that this museum must feel like what it’s like to get high. I am out of breath, and my brain needs to catch up to my body, or my body needs to catch up to my brain, because now they are not aligned.

Out of the beautiful madness, they need to find each other again.

 

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Down the Rabbit Hole with Frank Stella

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Frank Stella’s Retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC

 

Frank Stella recently had a retrospective at the Whitney in New York. It was as strange and random and geometric and thoughtful as one would imagine from the prolific artist.

Assaulted with color, line, and unbridled form, the exhibition space evolved from being a standard gallery into a zone that the Mad Hatter himself would feel comfortable occupying. Ranging from nuanced dark painted squares to bursting neon metal sculptures, Stella’s exhibition was diverse and engaging.

To me, what stood out about the exhibition was the way it directed me to contemplate place. Each of the grand pieces consumed me as a viewer, creating a small space within a larger context: the context of the whole exhibition, of the Whitney building, of the city of New York as a whole. The colorful-verging-on-chaotic paintings and sculptures flowed from one to the next – having been curated like a dream – and contrasted the view of the water and the city skyline from the huge fifth floor windows that framed one side of the exhibition space. The geometry of the lines of the pieces met the geometry of the city, despite the stark contrast between the harshness of New York against the whimsy of Stella’s art.

As a viewer caught between two worlds – city and canvas, color and chrome – I could not help but feel like Alice in her moment of free falling-flying down into the rabbit hole, and seeing that everything (but especially place) is just a matter of perspective.

“Duet”

My favorite short film of all time is an animation called “Duet” by Glen Keane, a famed animator who spent the majority of his career working for Disney, creating loved characters such as Tarzan.

“Duet” chronicles the life of a boy and a girl. He grows from a baby, to a boy with a dog, to an adventurous man who falls in love. She becomes an elegant dancer after being a stumbling toddler. Their lives intersect, seemingly as though the Universe would not give up until they were finally together.

The video is calm and painterly, in blue and white tones with occasional flashes of pink. The style is sketched, so the film feels more like a storyboard or flip book set to music rather than the rounded and polished Disney style for which Keane is known. But despite the unfinished edges, the video is very fluid. It is ethereal and out of time, not only because of the style or the accelerated timeline of seeing the two characters age, but also because of the dreamy music.

To me, this video is not just an artistic representation of life, or a sweet love story. It goes beyond both to show passion. Each character has a lust for life – they follow their vocation. They accept love as it comes to them. This movie shows how to Carpe Diem – alone: climbing mountains or facing an audience; and together: falling in love. Keane highlights the beautiful things in life – love, adventure – and leaves out the scary parts, putting the spotlight on only one side of the duet of life. There is no fear of vulnerability or of failure. Perhaps the video is idealized, and thus flawed. But perhaps sometimes it’s okay to focus on the good and beautiful.

With luck, like in this lovely film, in the end the beautiful outshines the hard stuff anyway.

The Power of Sunshine

Vitamin D is essential for people to stay healthy. Everyone relies on sunshine. And beyond physical well-being, it also keeps people happy.

What compares to natural light filtering through a window? Or the feeling of sun on bare skin after winter?

People are very strongly influenced by our surroundings. If we are surrounded by stress, we may grow to feel stress of our own. If there is laughter, we laugh. Sunshine can’t help but brighten the day – it is in its nature to shine, and in ours to absorb the light.

But the sun can also cause pain. If exposed for too long, people get burned, suffering from too much of a good thing.

Even in beauty, there must be balance. The human condition is delicate, and easily influenced. Though we are stubborn creatures, we are not infallible (unfortunately). We must embrace the light and warmth that we can, understanding that at any moment everything could change, and accepting that the change may be good or bad.

So in the meantime – in the present – one must turn their face to the light, recognizing that Spring won’t last forever.