Monday, May 30, 2005

artist town of North Adams, Mass MoCa, and the Vermont Country Store

The first few days of our New England trip was nice--with occasional light showers and temperature in the upper 50s, the area was at the height of the spring. Everything was in bloom. As we drove along hilly, winding roads of New England, we cleansed our zoot-permeated lungs with the sweet floral air.

We took MA2 from the crazy rotary hell (a.k.a. Boston) to North Adams in the northwestern corner of Massachussetts. The trees along the route had just started to open their tiny young leaves, and their extensive color range, from everyday lime green to less common yellow to unusual orange brown, made it look like autumn foliage. Slight haze in the air softened the contours of everything, adding to the typical lethargic feel of the area.

North Adams is an artist town, which used to be a lumber mill town along a small river. Many of the mills have been converted to artist residences, studios, and above all, the excellent museum of Mass MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), preserving the aging red blick walls and sturdy industrial structures inside.

pink madness I
The largest studio complex is located on the northern edge of the town. Around the old factory building, there are several huts and barns that have been prey to the residents artists' whims. One gutted hut was painted dark blue and dark green inside and outside, another barn was entirely painted with all sorts of pink hues (cf. the photo above).

that way please
In the center of the small town, along the river, is the Mass MoCA, also a converted large-scale lumber mill. Much of the "mill" feel, such as layers of paints left on exposed brick walls and girders that run across the high ceilings, is well preserved, giving it a delightful difference from many of the buildings designed principally for museums. The rooms are spacious, at times even huge (enough to fit eight exploding Ford Tauruses hung from the ceiling at various angles), and natural light generously stream through the numerous large glass windows (when it is appropriate, of course). The picture is one of the signs in the parking lot.

oh nooo
Its exhibits of contemporary art are playful and evocative, including this tiger exhibit by Cai Guo Cian. An entire room is dedicated to the single work, for it consists of about half a dozen fake, arrow-striken tigers flying all over the place in all sorts of poses--they definitely takes up some space. Reminiscent of both that nightmarish painting of Dali's and some of the traditional Chinese sumi painting of the emperors' tiger hunting, it is an exhibit fun to walk around. One of the tiger even attacked me as I took this one above. Another exhibit of note is the creepy silicone creatures by Patricia Piccinini. Of the two on the exhibit, "The Young Family" is particularly stunning and unsettling. Featuring a family of a hybrid chimera of pig and human, the sadness and exhaustion on the face of the strangely male-and-old-looking mother and the texture of their skin (meticulously recreated down to the tiniest pore) are beyond comprehension. The piece by itself could very well be worth the visit to the museum. (These two photos are taken by my boyfriend.)

From there on, we drove up to the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, on the way to which we couldn't resist to allow us to be touristic and dropped by at a Vermont contry store. Run by some large-scale corporation, but nicely disguised as a locally-owned store, it is obliterating the real, community-owned counterpart across a street, which seems to have its own reasons to be doing not terriblly well. The country store is a fun place to wander around, especially the colorful sections of all sorts of candy jars. If I were a kid, I would not leave the place until I got some in my pocket!

jelly beans


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