Where to Find Public Art in Boston

While you can always catch dozens of great exhibitions throughout SoWa's thriving gallery district, today we want to highlight the art popping up around Boston. These public art pieces are a must see, installed from Commonwealth Ave to the Seaport and the Emerald Necklace:

1. Now + There Open House

Open House is a public installation by Boston- born artist Liz Glynn. The piece transforms the Commonwealth Avenue Mall into the ruins of a ballroom reminiscent of a nineteenth century, upscale living space, all the while providing commentary on the societal exclusivity that have constructed and continue to reconstruct. “With this revision, the artist invites the public to enjoy a previously exclusive interior space that is now open and accessible to all.”

Located at 490 and 499 Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Kenmore Square in Boston. The complete installation will be in place through November 4. Presented by Now + There and made possible by the Public Art Fund.

Photos from Now + There and Ryan McMahon.

2. Fog x FLO

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Boston’s Emerald Necklace Conservatory, “Fog x FLO introduces park visitors to the internationally renowned 'fog sculptures' of Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya. These five sculptures mark five decades of Nakaya's career and complement Frederick Law Olmsted’s  enduring designs for the Emerald Necklace parks.”  This outdoor art installation was curated by Boston's Jen Mergel. The sculptures will be on view through October 31st, 2018 at Clemente Field, Back Bay Fens; Leverett Pond, Olmsted Park; Brookline, Jamaica Pond; Hunnewell Hillside, Arnold Arboretum; and Overlook Ruins, Franklin Park. You can navigate this public art presentation via the mobile web application at fogxflo.info or by the directions in this link: https://www.emeraldnecklace.org/20th/visit/

Photography: Melissa Ostrow

3. Carving Out Fresh Options: Shara Hughes at the Rose Kennedy Greenway

In partnership with deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Brooklyn-based artist Shara Hughes has created her first large-scale mural at the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Carving Out Fresh Options uses bold colors and perspectives to create a fictional landscape that contrasts those of the surrounding city of Boston.

On View May 18, 2018 - May 31, 2019

Shara Hughes, Carving Out Fresh Options, 2018, Mural, 70 x 76 feet, Courtesy of the Greenway Conservancy. Photo credit: Todd Mazer Photography

Press Release: Rena Detrixhe, Red Dirt Rug

Installation Preview Dates: August 28 – August 31, 2018 (Open to the public)
Opening Reception: Friday, September 7, 6-9 pm
Exhibition dates: September 5 - 30, 2018

Rena Detrixhe presses designs into a Red Dirt Rug installation. Photo by: Mark Andrus

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is proud to introduce the site-specific installation, Red Dirt Rug by Rena Detrixhe. Self identified as a hunter-gatherer, Detrixhe explores and analyzes history and the effect of human impact on our soil. Originally from Kansas, the artist now lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an area of the country that has been rapidly altered in the past century. Detrixhe began developing this body of work in 2016, as a result of her residency with the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. Red Dirt Rug is created from soil collected in central Oklahoma. Once transported to her studio in Tulsa, the artist spends hours finely grinding and sifting the earth into a soft, red dust. Standing in front of Red Dirt Rug, visitors might find their perception changes. The differences between outside and indoors, past and present become blurred, or perhaps they even merge. According to Detrixhe, “Red dirt symbolizes grit, perseverance, sorrow, pain, spirit, resilience. While it is rooted here in Oklahoma, I believe it has national implications.”

Rena Detrixhe’s work is both meticulous and ephemeral. Detrixhe has intimate connections with her materials and she works to understand their properties through process and careful labor. Prior to working with red dirt, she has created drawings and objects from seeds, ice, dried crabapple fruits, resin droplets emulating water, and a variety of household objects. Red Dirt Rug is heavy with metaphors and historical significance. The work is both a meditation of our past and the frame for our future, prompting deeper thinking about our world. For Detrixhe, “Landscapes have memory, places have memory, the earth has memory. There is a reason we say something happened on our home soil. Soil has a memory, too.”

Detail of previous installation of Red Dirt Rug. Photo by: Mark Andrus 

The significance of Detrixhe’s Red Dirt Rug goes beyond the piece’s original location. The artist illuminates questions that can be asked about the histories and geographies of land in the United States at large. When reflecting on the meaning of the artwork, Detrixhe explains, “I’m not sure that a single work of art can adequately represent the multitude of complicated histories,” she said. “But if any material can hold all of those things in it, it would be soil, earth.” Iterations of Red Dirt Rug have been previously displayed in a number of states throughout the Midwest, in Virginia and now in Boston.

This installation is a unique artwork that will only be displayed for the duration of the exhibition, holding the harsh and powerful reality that it will inevitably be swept away. Detrixhe works the entirety of the four-day installation, with visitors welcomed to step into the gallery and view the slow, deliberate mark making through careful gestures. The artwork provides a distinct opportunity to allow for a more nuanced space of consideration between the person and the landscape, reminding us of the preciousness of the earth just below our feet. By bringing the dirt inside, the earth attempts to reclaim and reinforce its presence and importance.

While the implications of the artwork are environmental, Detrixhe allows the audience to come to their own conclusions in regard to meaning and impact. Red Dirt Rug encourages the viewer to consider the question: moving forward, is there an alternative to how we, as a culture, relate to our land and the histories it holds?

Detrixhe received her BFA from the University of Kansas in 2013. She has exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States and is the recipient of numerous awards including a scholarship to attend the prestigious art school at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea and a two-year studio residency with Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. Recent exhibitions include Ephemera at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, KS, and a solo exhibition at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2017 she received both the public vote and juried vote awards in the time-based category for her work Red Dirt Rug at ArtPrize Nine in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Detrixhe has spent the past two years as a Tulsa Artist Fellow in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Originally from Kansas, the artist now lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 Completed Red Dirt Rug. Photo by: Mark Andrus

Completed Red Dirt Rug. Photo by: Mark Andrus

Small Business Spotlight: DoubWorks

 Custom stretcher bars built in Joshua Doub's workshop. Photo courtesy of  DoubWorks Instagram

Custom stretcher bars built in Joshua Doub's workshop. Photo courtesy of DoubWorks Instagram

At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, we like to consider the quality of the work our artists are producing in a holistic manner. Our artists place heavy importance of each detail that goes into creating their work, from the caliber of the paint to the stretcher bars that support the canvas. Stretchers are the foundation of a painting: their quality dictates its longevity and durability. For this reason, we were thrilled when we learned about DoubWorks a few years back.

DoubWorks is a small business founded in 2013 in Royalston, Massachusetts, dedicated to creating handcrafted artist materials. They build each product from scratch, creating high-quality stretchers. Primarily, they build custom stretcher bars - including uniquely shaped surfaces, such as circles or ellipses. Their stretcher bars are made of poplar, which is stronger than pine but weighs about the same. Poplar also grows on the east coast not too far from the shop, making it an environmentally friendly choice. All of the stretchers are milled completely in-house to assure straightness. Because of DoubWorks’ exceptional process of handcrafting products from the rough lumber to the finished item, their artist materials have become highly sought after by artists across the country. One of our own artists, Natalia Wróbel, uses DoubWorks for her canvases to ensure that her abstract oil paintings have the support and durability they deserve.

Natalia Wróbel using DoubWorks for her canvases

Founder Joshua Doub was first inspired to start DoubWorks when he desired higher quality canvases for his own work. Out of this need, the business grew organically as Josh began making and selling his custom canvases to other artists. Josh designed and built his entire workshop from the ground up, even harvesting the lumber from trees cut on the property. Josh worked with a master timber framer to construct the workshop's wooden frame and with the help of friends and family. His business is 100% powered by solar energy!

As you can tell, creating quality stretcher bars is its own art form!

Visit their website for more information: https://www.doubworks.com/

Photo courtesy of Doubworks Instragram

True Stories: Wallpaper Installation by Cassandra C. Jones

Image courtesy of Shandi Chester

Cassandra C. Jones, a California native, traveled to Baltimore, Maryland this past spring to create a wallpaper installation for the newly built Hotel Revival, a boutique hotel located in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon district. Cassandra C. Jones is a remix artist, who collects images in both print and digital form. Organizing these found photographs into collages, videos, and installations, she creates transformative arrangements that reveal the power of photographic imagery in contemporary life.

After initially meeting in 2008, Tracy Proietti, the owner of the Hotel Revival, reached out to Jones expressing her interest in commissioning a wallpaper that could find a connection between Baltimore’s history and contemporary times. Jones began researching the city's rich history, and quickly discovered Baltimore Album Quilts. Originating in the bustling port city of Baltimore in the 1840’s, this unique style of quilting is broken down into “blocks”, each appliquéd with its own design. Containing fraternal, patriotic, religious, and everyday symbols, these blocks are comprised of new fabric. The quilts were created by middle class women to be preserved as family heirlooms.  Much like a scrapbook or photo album, the quilts are rich with stories, and have become an invaluable record of the lives, legacies, and loves of the women who painstakingly wove each quilt.

Noting the similarity of style between Baltimore Album Quilts and her own work, Jones proposed to reinvigorate this tradition, recreating the quilted motifs in her digital photo-collage style. She highlights the likeness of the quilts to her work, connecting the way she remixes imagery “to tell stories in the digital age” with the way in which “generations of women used a similar process to construct narratives using scraps of fabric.” After establishing a direction for her work, Jones was granted artistic license, and set to work, spending nine months conceptualizing, creating, and installing the wallpaper.

While creating the work, Cassandra C. Jones took upon the perspective of a hotel visitor. Carefully considered the location of a hotel for her installation, Jones tells us, “I thought a lot about what it feels like to be in a space that is different from your own but that is made to comfort you, what it is like to explore a new city like Baltimore for the first time and what it feels like to be part of our technology-obsessed, contemporary culture where we can see and experience any place at any time via the internet.” Approaching this work of art from the lens of a newly welcomed stranger, Jones includes imagery of pineapples, a symbol of hospitality and welcome. She also uses images of pink flamingos and cat eye glasses to allude to a famous tourist restaurant in Baltimore called the Cafe Hon which is also as an ode to the local filmmaker, John Waters. Through Jones’ remixed images, True Stories encourages guests of the Hotel Revival to engage in the ongoing history of the city of Baltimore.Through Jones’ remixed images, True Stories encourages guests of the Hotel Revival to become a part of the ongoing history of the city of Baltimore.

Photo courtesy of Shandi Chester

Jones also reveals that in creating True Stories, she sought to tell her own story within the context of Album Quilts. The original “stitchers of sentiment” devoted many quilts to expressing love through symbols, often working collaboratively to present the finished quilts as gifts to loved ones. Every block of these hand sewn quilts was unique, carefully fashioned with new fabric to give to someone cherished. As a result, these quilts were preserved and passed down through families, continuing the legacy of their creators. Jones describes how she sought to emulate this deeply personal medium by including references to her own love life. Upon close inspection of her flower pot motif, one notices a subtle reflection present in the heart-shaped mylar balloons, a reflection that, as Jones disclosed to us, is actually of her and her husband.

The finalized work of art measures 52 by 52 inches. It features nine unique blocks that repeat to make the full wallpaper pattern. Each block created by Jones tells its own authentic story while echoing the past and giving voice to the stories of women now gone. Right at the heart of Baltimore’s cultural center, Jones’ work for the Hotel Revival breathes new life into the historical narrative of the city, animating the past with the pace of contemporary life.