'A' is for Art

by Noemi Arellano-Summer

Photography by Noemi Arellano-Summer

The Bakalar and Paine Galleries, located at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (commonly known as MassArt), have various exhibits throughout the spring. ‘E’ is for Elephants: The Etchings of Edward Gorey was featured in the President’s Gallery from January 9 to February 7, while DRAW/Boston is featured in the Bakalar Gallery from January 23 to March 4.

American artist and illustrator Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was mainly self-taught, except for one semester studying at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1943.

Gorey is typically described as an illustrator, though he classified his own art as literary nonsense. Made famous by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, this genre balances things that make sense with some that do not—subverting logic.

He published over 100 books, notably The Gashlycrumb Tinies and The Doubtful Guest, and drew the animated credits for the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! series.

He has become an iconic figure in the Gothic subculture. Events with his themes have become common in the more Victorian-styled areas of the subculture.

One example of Gorey’s link to the dark cabaret music genre is the album The Gorey End by the band The Tiger Lillies. This album was in direct collaboration with Gorey, who liked The Tiger Lillies’ previous work so much that he sent them a box of his unpublished work. These works were subsequently adapted and turned into songs. Unfortunately, Gorey died before hearing the finished album.

The exhibit at MassArt showcased work made by Gorey in the last decade of his life and highlighted his fascination with elephants.

“There were plenty of elephant sketches from the last 10 years of Gorey’s life,” said Darci Hanna, a curatorial associate who helped set up the Gorey exhibit. “The illustration students really enjoyed the exhibit. The curator, James Edwards, gave a talk and the room was completely full.”

Curator James Edwards did research at the Edward Gorey House. Located on Cape Cod, Gorey’s old home has turned into a museum; it is affectionately referred to as “The Elephant House” (the MassArt exhibit pieces were loaned from the house’s museum).

While doing his research, Edwards noticed the overwhelming amount of elephant sketches from Gorey, and so that became the feature of his exhibit.

DRAW/Boston, on the other hand, is composed of private sketches from nearly 48 artists from around the world. Originally curated by Tomas Vu as DRAW for the Inside/Out Museum in Beijing, China, it allows a look into the drawing process and thoughts of the individual artist.

The original exhibit featured sketches by American printmaker Kiki Smith and Canadian sculptor David Altmejd, among others. The MassArt exhibit includes local artists such as Tory Fair and John Walker. Faculty was not forgotten, with art from Professor Emeritus Dean Nimmer as a prime example.

Jianna Christopher, a student assisting at the Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery, explained the pieces of DRAW/Boston: “It’s sketches of the artists, along with a show of the local area, MassArt faculty, local artists, and murals.”

Rirkrit Tiravanija, a Thai artist, began an ongoing interactive mural called Demonstration Drawings. Much of Tiravanija’s work has taken the form of stages for sharing meals or playing music: architecture for living and socializing is a key component. Demonstration Drawings was added throughout the first few weeks of the exhibit and reflects important political issues of today.

Using protest images, artists created a live mural, taking a private process and turning it into an interactive performance.

MassArt will be hosting a weekly community drawing night called "Drawing Together: Creative Expression for America" in the Bakalar and Paine Galleries, every Wednesday from January 25 to March 1, 6 to 8 p.m. Inspired by the exhibit, this event is meant for people to express their creativity through therapeutic art.