Far Beyond Hikes and New England Beauty — Mass Moca’s Amazing Art

Mass Moca Exhibits, late October 2014

Mass Moca Exhibits, late October 2014

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that Deb Hill and I spent a late October week in the Berkshire mountains, mostly hiking, much art, and, o, yes, food.  I’m torn today between giving you our astonishing Bennington VT stroll, our electrifying views from the Apple Barn on the way to Bennington, and the art of Mass Moca.

The last wins, for sheer outrageousness.  I’d get right back in that car and drive to Willilamstown tomorrow morning, if it weren’t for saving New Jersey Land at D&R Greenway – so we could return to Mass Moca’s thrilling and thought-provoking art installations.

Walk with us through the parking lot:

Approaching Mass Moca's Front Entrance

Approaching Mass Moca’s Front Entrance

Mass Moca Alleyway

Mass Moca Alleyway

Gramercy Restaurant, that doesn't do lunch in late October

Gramercy Restaurant, that doesn’t do lunch in late October

Techno-Beauty, Mass Moca

Techno-Beauty, Mass Moca

Campanile, Mass Moca

Campanile, Mass Moca

O, ‘Moca’ means Museum of Contemporary Art.

Those of you who’ve been up there know that this was a factory, enormous and (to me) stultifying to its human occupants.  That brilliant and courageous people conceived of transforming this enormous set of structures, determined to bring North Adams, Mass., back to life after its inescapable desertion by industry.  The courageous ones found backers, successfully creating one of the most stunning art settings of my entire life here and in Europe.

Now, North Adams is a happening town, what my mother would say, is “full of ginger.”  Probably quite literally, as the restaurant scene is lively and ever-expanding.  A delightful set of once run-down houses has been turned into a place to stay, called “The Porches.”  You can see these engaging dwellings from the museum.  Manhattanites delight in coming up to partake of their unique hospitality.

But Mass Moca’s not just about art.  Every installation teaches.  Scenes from past visits still fill my head, more irresistible than sugarplums, — teaching about the circularity of the environment, about poisons in our food, making us face the beauty of polluted landscapes, confront the inescapability of wars — all through astounding beauty.

Spectator with Teresita Fernandez Multi-Room Installation that seemed like massive bird migration, even how passenger pigeons may have been...

Spectator with Teresita Fernandez Multi-Room Installation that seemed like massive bird migration, even how passenger pigeons may have been…

Room With a View, Teresita Fernandez Installation Suffuses Another Room

Room With a View, Teresita Fernandez Installation Suffuses Another Room

Teresita Fernandez Molten Gold on Jet Black Background -- 3-D Printing!

Teresita Fernandez Molten Gold on Jet Black Background — 3-D Printing!

Teresita Fernandez Tube Installation

Teresita Fernandez Tube Installation

A Constellation of Tubes

A Constellation of Tubes

Wheeling Through the Tubes

Wheeling Through the Tubes

Tubes from the Balcony, Where Supervisors No Doubt Scrutinized Factory Workers

Tubes from the Balcony, Where Supervisors No Doubt Scrutinized Factory Workers

Original Factory Wall

Original Factory Wall

Are You Amazed Yet?

Throughout the museum, architects left walls, ceilings, floors, pillars, and even the restrooms, as they were when they were the habitat of workers.

Factory Washroom, Down the Basement

Factory Washroom, Down the Basement

Factory Bathroom, Left Mostly Intact

Factory Bathroom, Left Mostly Intact

I have the eeriest sense of understanding places like concentration camps, when I am faced with the realities of these long ago workers.

Back to Teresita's Black and Gold Art, which brings up industry, oil, gold, greed, through beauty...

Back to Teresita’s Black and Gold Art, which brings up industry, oil, gold, greed, through beauty…

Splendid and Irresistible Abstraction -- We could hardly tear ourselves away...

Splendid and Irresistible Abstraction — We could hardly tear ourselves away…

Plastics Array -- to Force Us to Contemplate the Role of Plastic in Our Lives...

Plastics Array — to Force Us to Contemplate the Role of Plastic in Our Lives…

This is the work of Lee Boroson, who is quintessentially suited to Mass Moca’s artistic and intellectual paradigm.

Each room is a journey, some easier than others.  All unforgettable.

Come back outside with us now.

Restaurant Wing, Mass Moca

Restaurant Wing, Mass Moca

Departing Mass Moca

Departing Mass Moca

We could not eat at Gramercy, despite its enchanting, old-world name.

Deb’s Garmin led us to a restored rail yard, with a famous pub.

The Freight Yard Pub

The Freight Yard Pub

We were welcomed with a real hardwood fire, and tables of formidable women and men in Harley garb.  I was told they are quite particular about their lunch stops.

I fell for their vaunted (purportedly nearby) Boston Clam Chowder and Crab Cake — a big mistake.  The craft beers were splendid and seasonal and welcome.  This is, i later learned, Burger Central.

The Freight Yard's Famous Coffee Place

The Freight Yard’s Famous Coffee Place

There’s a famous tunnel, dug through the mountains, near North Adams — a tunnel in which many died during construction.  It’s a key tourist attraction, which we neglected to visit.

Sense of Olde London in the Restored Freightyard Area

Sense of Olde London in the Restored Freightyard Area

Mass Moca is light years, but only minutes, from quaint Williamstown, of my previous post.  In fact, Mass Moca is light years from most museums I have ever visited in any country.

It is a country unto itself, with tremendous consciousness, determined to wake up its countless visitors to realities in their 21st Century world.

Truly, as Michelin says of restaurants, Mass Moca is “Vaut le Voyage” — Worthy of the Journey!

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WHEN A NATURALIST PACKS AND MOVES

PhoebeCharlesRogers4-12-09facingleftcopy

Phoebe I Have Yet to Hear — By Brenda Jones – at Carl Rogers Refuge off Alexander Street

First of all, a naturalist who is packing and moving  looks wistfully at spring out car windows, en route to and from her new abode.

Daffodils spurt from the dead earth, warmed by reflections from an old stone wall.

Crocus spill across too few beds, little cups of spring.  Tiny Grails.  I long to stop the car, kneel, sip their grace and light.

NorthernHarrierHawkLHT3-19-12DSC_5594Northern Harrier above Lawrenceville’s Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

But I’ve become a beast of burden in recent days, having found my new dwelling in lovely Society Hill of Lawrenceville.  No, this is not a snob’s name — it goes back to ancient times in our state, perhaps even to when we were West Jersey and East Jersey.  The ‘Friends’ in question were Quakers.  Reading Revolutionary tales, we might well not have a country, were it not for this company of Friends.

Where I am now, high on a stony hill above the D&R Canal and Towpath, is stingy with spring.  Nothing new erupts, let alone blooms, in this odd woods — all too ruined by constructions of McMansions, turning all this lovely forest into edge habitat.

The cardinals seem to be singing more lustily.  Robins are here, but not caroling yet.  I have yet to hear a phoebe.  Red-bellied woodpeckers are a little more frequent in their odd purring.

However, one gift of this site is a plethora of peepers.  Of course, it’s too darned cold for these hardy, eager singers, –if my door thermometer is below 32, which it remains many a day and most nights.  I shall miss the peepers.

NorthernHarrierstandinginLHTfield3-19-12DSC_5711Northern Harrier in Late Light at Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

I shall not miss the poisons spewed into our air, and waters — the Delaware and Raritan Canal and Towpath and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed — drinking water for the region — by ever-expanding Trap Rock. 

No one realizes that Trap Rock somehow secured, long ago, a permit to burn and transport asphalt 24/7.  That means, everyone, by day and by night.  With not only the stench but the particles being carried to the four corners of the compass in heavy open noisy trucks.  Open, meaning the poisons are not sealed from anyone they pass — “because the trucks might catch fire.”

Never mind that Trap Rock asphalt in my air, in my car, on my outside table and chairs, seeping through my windows, staining my carpets, gave me a collapsed lung and enlarged heart.  Officials who came here said they could not enter that as a complaint.  Even if I went to a courtroom with all my physicians, Princeton Radiology, and so forth.  They can only enter a complaint if the asphalt fumes are preventing me from working outside in the garden!  If they entered a complaint, –and after hours of talk and filing out forms, I never heard whether or not those Somerset County Board of Health and Public Safety officials did so–, if there were a fine imposed, it would be around $100.

Never mind that I lost my voice from asphalt, that wracking coughs were asphalt’s gifts to me, that one has little energy when one’s lungs are not fully functioning.  Never mind that I need my voice at D&R Greenway, –where I work, ironically, to save the planet.  Never mind health of humans, let alone amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, the lovely coterie of vultures who need Trap Rock rocks for nests in breeding season.

I have fought as long and hard as I could.  I am “folding my tent like an Arab, and as silently steal[ing] away.”

On Easter Monday.  I will depart from a tomb, roll back a stone, seek resurrection.  And new levels of energy and creativity.

Short-eared Owl wing swoop-lookShort-Eared Owl Above Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

Where I’m moving is very near the expansive Pole Farm.  Site of Northern Harrier flights and short-eared owl winter arrivals and bobolink spring returns.

Bobolink Autumn Olive Brenda JonesBobolink at Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones

Place where I have found coyote tracks on the trail.  Though, sadly, never seen a coyote in New Jersey.  I never give up hope.

Pole Farm where I came across salamander and wood frog eggs one chilly March walk after rain, with a poet friend, who lives in Lawrenceville.  These unmistakeable signs of spring glistened, full of life and promise, oddly enough in some sort of vehicle depressions on our trail.

Where I’m moving, pretty soon, an exquisite array of pink magnolias will open all along an island where my guests and I will park our cars.

Where I’m moving, light suffuses all the rooms.  I have been unpacking with sliding doors open to a greensward, broad and treed and welcoming.

Where I’m moving, I’ll be free of asphalt.

So, if I have to give spring excursions this year, in quest of light and health and beauty, it will be worth it.

My Muse has been in hiding here.  She is longing to emerge.

New NJWILDEAUTY posts will be the result.

Short-eared owl profile Pole Farm Brenda JonesShort-Eared Owl Flying Toward My New Home, From Pole Farm, by Brenda Jones