Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Two Days, Two Museums, One Post

So without too much further ado, I'm going to tell you about my visits to both Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA, and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA.  But first, a little brief background.
[Above, upside down trees at Mass MoCA - I think there are 4 or 5 of them - greet you when you walk to the entry.  I've seen them bare in the late fall and winter, and now fully leafed, but I'd love to see them in early/mid fall, when they are color-changing. My question: since the trees are upside down, do the leaves fall up into the sky instead of down to the ground?  I think they should.  Also above, part of a a sculptural installation in the museum.  Sorry I don't have the artist name.  Below, a view of part of the museum, which consists of 6 large interconnected buildings.  The photo was taken from the viewpoint of an outdoor seasonal installations.]

Anyhow....  Last post, I told you about my week of immersive plein air art-making at Bennington college in an Mass Art program called Art New England.  An art teacher friend of mine from Michigan was there the week after me, also plein air painting, and after her week concluded I joined her for two days of museum touring nearby.  We visited Mass MoCA (I've previously told you about other visits to this terrific museum, in blog posts HERE, HERE and HERE, and also HERE.  The next day we visited the also-fabulous and completely different Clark Art Institute, pictured below.  That's the older part of the museum.
Last time I was there was several years ago, before a major renovation.  The new building is a fascinating (and I might guess controversial) use of space.  There are lots of large architectural spaces that do not serve the purpose of displaying art.  I'm still trying to decide if I loved it or hated it.  Or maybe it was a little of both. But Mass MoCA also has unused architectural spaces, and I love it.  So.... I guess I need to figure out why I reacted so differently to them.  Mostly, I think, it's because Mass MoCA is built in old warehouse/factory buildings, and the original architecture is what makes it so gorgeous.  The spacious empty spaces at the Clark are all sterile brand-new construction, like this lovely reflecting pond below.  Pretty, yes.  Practical use of space?  I just don't know. 
The three photos below are interior spaces in the newest building of Mass MoCA. The walls and floors are very similar to that in the other buildings.  Beautiful architecture.  Not sure who made the hanging sculpture of wildly intertwined bodies (note the feet and heads).  The sculptural piece in the 2nd photo is by Louise Bourgeois.
Below is some of the expansive outdoor space by the new construction at the Clark.  Unfortunately I evidently forgot to shoot photos of the large 'dead' interior space in the new buildings. Probably because it just didn't 'grab' me aesthetically. 

 Anyhow... the real reason for visiting the museum was for the art, not the architecture.  While Mass MoCA is a contemporary museum, here's what it says on the Clark's website about their collection:  "The collection of the Clark features European and American paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and decorative arts from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. The collection is especially rich in French Impressionist and Academic paintings, British oil sketches, drawings, and silver, and the work of American artists Winslow Homer, George Inness, and John Singer Sargent."  Below are a few of my favorite images from our visit.  Some of these were big surprises to me! I am smitten with this George Inness directly below, called Autumn in Montclair
Below left, Chrysanthemums, by James Tissot. Isn't it beautiful?  So lush!  On the right, Woman with Dog, by Pierre Bonnard.  I was first introduced to Bonnard as a favorite of a very special college painting teacher.  I think Bonnard is often overlooked and this painting is just exquisite. 
I think this painting below might be my favorite of the whole museum.  Looking at the brush strokes close up, it amazes me how much detail you can see without it actually being meticulously drawn in!  The painting is Young Woman Reading by Lucius Rossi.   This wasn't the only gorgeous Rossi painting in the gallery.
 Below, Crossing the Street, by Giovanni Boldini.   Again, it wasn't the only Boldini, and each painting was just as expressive and rich in its portrayal.  I wish I could show you them all in this post!
The painting below, Terrace in the Luxembourg Gardens, is, believe it or not, is a Vincent van Gogh.  It definitely caught me by surprise to discover it was a van Gogh.   
Two other favorites from the museum were both of these white-on-white paintings.  On the left, one of the few paintings by a woman in the main galleries, is The Bath, by Berthe Morisot.  Lovely!  On the right, and in the detail below, by John Singer Sargent, is, in English, Smoke of Ambergris
Below, Low Tide, Yport by Renoir was my biggest surprise.  I'm not generally a big fan of Renoir's sugary sweet portraits, 'pretty' colors, and soft-edged brush strokes.  But this landscape, and a couple of others, really grabbed me!  Below it is a lovely Monet. 

In another building, accessible by walking up a hill or riding a quickie shuttle bus (we chose the shuttle bus), was an exhibit of abstract landscape paintings by Helen Frankenthaler.   This first, gigantic painting was my favorite.  I found that if I visually blocked out half of the painting, it was easier to see it as a landscape. 
In an experiment, I turned it upside down, and it still reads as a landscape.  
Check it out!!!
 Here's a couple other of the Frankenthaler paintings. 

Before we totally leave the Clark, here's Spring from a collection of The Four Seasons, paintings by Alfred Stevens. 

 And before I close this post, here's another handful of images from Mass MoCA!
 Below, is a tiny part of the installation all utopias fell, by Michael Oatman. 

Many times we have driven over the overpass in the background, while on our way home from somewhere else, and I had a brief view of these giant pink sculptures.  I always wondered what the heck they were, (and maybe I still do), but never was able to stop on the bridge for a closer look.  So I was glad to finally get a closeup view of Franz West’s Les Pommes d’Adam.

And finally, to close this post, here's some pretty pink waterlilies from a large lily pond on the grounds of The Clark.  I should mention, the grounds are beautiful, and there's lots of wooded walking trails.  I'd like to return in the fall for some time in both the museum and to hike the trails. 


  1. I just love the warehouse rooms in mass moca. All that exposed brick and rustic feel is almost as engaging as the art!

    1. It's beautiful. A gal I know had her engagement photos taken in those beautiful rooms!