I actually found out about this art gallery online and asked my sister if she’d like to come along. We headed to the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA on a Tuesday in July and discovered a really beautiful space, well kept and filled with contemporary and historic American Art. I took a quick trip to the restroom as we entered and when I came out Natalie said, “Don’t touch the walls,” and gave me the crazy eyes. There were security guards everywhere and there were motion sensors up against the wall to keep people from stealing the art. This is something I’ve seen in big state museums before, but not free galleries! I asked if I could take pictures and got a “no.” O well, I’ll just take some pictures outside later!
On the main floor there is a traveling exhibit about artists perceptions of themselves. Most of the pieces are contemporary and they use lots of different types of media, both audio and visual. On this floor Cat McQuail’s project is displayed. At first it appears that she has taken photographs of each member of her family, until you see the labels which read “Self Portrait as my sister/brother/mother/father.” At closer inspection my sister noticed that she photographs herself wearing masks that she has made of her whole family. They are eerily realistic. The most intriguing piece, at least for me, however, was Laurel Nakadate’s pieces. As you enter the room to the right you hear Britney Spear’s “Oops I did it again” playing out of three TV sets, each playing a video of a girl (the artist) dancing to the song, with a different middle aged man in each video. Some of the men dance along with her and some stand still looking uncomfortable. The sign on the wall explains that this project looks at the loneliness of these men who she found in public and convinced to let her video tape the two of them as this Britney song played. After reading the sign the videos are bitter sweet. I wonder if these men are just happy to have the company for a moment in time, or if they even feel lonely at all.
Nakadate has another piece in the room. Pictures of her, scantily clad, in different positions in different locations are mounted on the walls and there is a head set hanging next to them. As you put on the headset you head the voices of middle aged men describing each of the pictures you see in front of you. Reading the sign you come to understand that each man had to dip his fingers in ink (leaving finger prints all over these pictures) and flip through each of them describing them along the way. It makes you feel uncomfortable, but it’s a really fascinating project and it has stuck with me the most after the museum.
On the second floor there are some very abstract paintings (some a little too abstract for my taste), and some famous works by painters like Winslow Homer, Jackson Pollock, and Georgia O’Keefe. Lots of unique American works and even some sculpture. Something that you can’t miss, is the ground floor. On the signs around the building the ground floor is labeled as “security” and “restrooms,” but if you venture down the stairs you will find cases and cases of beautiful and detailed model ships. Spend some time down there because the ships are really remarkable.
A very diverse museum, on a private high school campus, free to the public. Where else can you hear Britney Spears and see Winslow Homer in the same place?
Where: the campus of Phillips Academy at the corner of Route 28 [Main Street] and Chapel Avenue in Andover, Massachusetts
When: Tuesday-Saturday 10AM-5PM, Sunday 1PM-5PM
Are there any museums like this where you live??