a museum visit

a necklace made out of safety pins

Yesterday, my older son and I went to the Museum of Art and Design. I went to see the exhibit "Second Lives" with my mother Thanksgiving weekend and I have been bugging my boys to come see the exhibit with me.

The exhibit features work, both functional and decorative that was made out of material originally made for a different purpose. So there is a chair made out of high heeled shoes, a chaise made out of welded quarters, a Egyptian style necklace made out of carpenter's folding rulers, a giant flower made out of plastic forks.

When I went Thanksgiving I was struck by the pure enjoyment of the museum goers. How often do you go to a museum and hear the visitors laughing with pleasure at seeing such cleverness?

This large scale piece is made up entirely of collaged clothing labels

One piece I particularly loved was a Shaker style highboy made out of junk yard metals. The door panels were made up with Gees Bend Quilts inspired stripes of varicolored metals.

There were chandeliers of all sorts, one by Ron Arad was made out of empty toothpaste tubes and LED lights. It elevated the mundane to the spectacular. Another fabulous chandelier was made out of several chandeliers cobbled together, then chrome plated draped with delicate chains of hypodermic needles and pill casings.

The exhibit also has touch screens which allow visitors to access short videos about the construction of the pieces and the intent of the artists. I loved seeing the artists at work. It is so good to so how hard it is to produce beautiful things.

I found though that again and again I was irritated by the wall notes. Too many of the curatorial comments were drawing all sorts of silly conclusions about the intent of the artist. As someone who works with her hands it was pretty clear to me that many of the decisions made by the artists have more to do with the practicality of physical production rather than being, say a comment on the future of the universe. I find that comment of that sort make it hard to be a civilian rather than an arts professional while visiting a museum.

It could just be that I am just a cranky and shallow person. I find again and again that the crafts that are simply decorative, to be ultimately shallow and useless and self indulgent. I do regularly fall in love with the pieces that bend the rules, force you to re think and object and yet are useful.

It could just be too many years of apartment living, but in my book, if it isn't useful, why bother?

To see more about the museum - http://madmuseum.org/


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