Double Bubble by Kim Faler. This installation was modelled after chewed bubble gum. Some bubbles had a chewing sound which was meant to mimic anxiety.

Mass MoCA

The Junior Seminar in Art, led by Professor Rebecca Murtaugh, visited Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass., on Oct. 21. Olivia Holbrook ’23, a member of the class, shares her impressions and photos from the trip.

This was the first time both sections of the junior seminar came together to look at art. The first thing that struck me about Mass MoCA was that there are almost no paintings; instead the museum focuses on sculpture that is interactive and immersive. Hamilton students had about four hours inside the museum to explore freely.

To me, exploring Mass MoCA felt like a playground for adults, as many of the pieces are interactive. Artwork is scattered around the space, which once housed an industrial printing complex. Emlyn and I were on a mission to find all of the art. It seemed as we turned every corner, we saw something new — however, there were a few standouts that will change how I interact with and create art.

Mass MoCA exhibit
The Pipes by Taryn Simon. Each pipe was hollow so the viewer could walk inside.  The space was meditative.

The most impressive installation in the museum is by James Turrell, an artist who uses light as his primary medium to create spaces that distort your sense of color and place. Unfortunately, Turrell does not allow pictures taken of his work, but it is something truly worth experiencing in person. His light installations feel like paintings I could reach into. In the largest light installation, half of our class could walk into a rectangle of light that turned out to be three dimensional. It was a spiritual experience being absolutely engulfed in neon orange that then shifted to pink and green. It felt like being inside a television screen.

On our quest to find every artwork in the museum, Emlyn and I discovered a piece by Sarah Oppenheimer, who currently has a show in Hamilton’s Wellin Museum. It was a wonderful experience to immediately recognize the work of an artist in such a vast space.

Mass MoCA exhibit
Installation piece titled S-334473 by Sarah Oppenheimer. Emlyn Harris is seen here pushing the piece.

The piece in Mass MoCA is much like the one in the Wellin and could be moved by the viewer. Oppenheimer created beams that when pushed in a direction move in a way that cannot be anticipated by the viewer. When pushed sideways, the beam moves downward and in. Although Oppenheimer’s work is entirely different from the work of Turrell, both installations played with my perceptions of how the physical world works and how artists can manipulate their material.

Mass MoCA exhibit
The outside of Mass MoCA, which was engaging to explore, and connected the industrial past of the area to the present. It was once a printing factory.
Mass MoCA
Emlyn Harris ’23 views Les Pommes d’Adam by Franz West. This piece is a representation of Adam’s apples. Harris doesn’t agree.
At the conclusion of the trip, the class visited the studio of artist Kim Faler, who has an installation titled Double Bubble in the museum. It was heartening to see a working artist use the same techniques I am using to create casts of objects. I recognized many of the products in her studio and have used many of them myself. Faler explained her studio process and how intuition and play are huge factors in her art; this was evident in her exhibit.

My experience at Mass MoCA has opened my mind to what art has the power to do and has influenced the direction I hope to take in my senior thesis.

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