Our Best Stories that Celebrate the Outdoors
This week a look at some of our best stories that celebrate the outdoors: Boston Emerald Necklace with Fog x Flo, Edward Hopper and Cape Cod, Winslow Homer’s view of the sea, sculptor Daniel Chester French and his home, Chesterwood in the Berkshires and murals in Lynn.
>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,
WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture
from around the region and the nation.
I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,
we're outdoors and retracing our steps.
Although that was harder to do when Boston's Emerald Necklace
was filled with fog.
>> We are under
600 nozzles of fine, pure water vapor.
>> BOWEN: Then old Cape Cod.
Artists Edward and Josephine Hopper,
also fond of sand dunes and salty air.
>> Hopper, for sure, was an introvert.
He was not a very social person,
and being out in the hills of Truro,
surrounded by hardly anybody, was probably ideal for him.
>> BOWEN: Then a monumental landscape for a monument man.
>> He would come from New York City,
escape the hubbub, and just relax
and then work ten to 12 hours a day.
He was a driven artist.
>> BOWEN: It's all coming up onOpen Studio.
As you can see, we're coming to you
from the great outdoors
for this special edition of the show,
where we've put together a list of places
that can still be enjoyed safely--
starting with Boston's Emerald Necklace,
where, in 2018, the fog rolled in.
Now dotting the Emerald Necklace are some unusual phenomena
in the landscape.
It's like a flowing waterway,
a cloud unraveling,
or an ethereal portal to another world.
It's not an anomaly-- this is weather by design.
>> I think the end cap is off, so we have to...
>> Oh, yes.
>> See, that one has to be sealed.
>> BOWEN: Here under the towering trees
of the Arnold Arboretum,
artist Fujiko Nakaya and curator Jen Mergel
are working to create the conditions
for a totally ephemeral artwork.
>> Oh, we're starting to get it, look at it!
>> Oh, yeah, it's going up. >> It's going this way!
>> BOWEN: And suddenly, a fastidiously formed fog
TitledFog x Hill, this piece is one of five by Nakaya
installed across Boston's Emerald Necklace--
five separate sculptures
to celebrate her 50 years sculpting fog,
each one as personal as the next.
>> She has set, about 12 feet above a very steep hillside--
between a hemlock and a pine tree--
a series of nozzles that rotate their spray almost in a cyclone.
And they build on themselves, and roll around on themselves,
and then they roll down the hill.
>> BOWEN: Across town, I caught up with curator Jen Mergel
inside another one of Nakaya's sculptures.
Well, I think-- I know this is a first,
to do an interview amid all of this fog.
Tell me what we're in the middle of right now.
>> So, we're in the middle of Fujiko Nakaya's fog installation
entitledFog x Canopy.
We're here in the Back Bay Fens,
and we are under 600 nozzles of fine, pure water vapor.
>> BOWEN: The artist is a pioneer in her field.
Fusing science with her arts background,
she was the first to begin experimenting
with fog as a medium
>> She thought for a while in the 1950s and '60s
how she could create a work of art
that is both composing and decomposing
and appearing and disappearing
at the same time.
And it occurred to her, that's what a cloud does.
>> I used to spend a lot of time,
and I was walking around, and walking around,
(laughing): I, I'm like a shaman, trying to...
I, I'm more comfortable
with the, the natural phenomena.
>> BOWEN: Some 50 years on,
Nakaya has become the world-renowned master of mist,
using a patented nozzle and sprinkler system
to craft one-of-a-kind fog sculptures around the globe,
at places like the Guggenheim in Bilbao,
the Grand Palais in Paris,
and the Tate Modern in London.
Here in Boston, Nakaya found inspiration
in sights like this one along the Back Bay Fens.
>> She loved this allée of London plane sycamores.
And she loved the idea of the water nearby.
And the passage of us walking through,
and the passage of the water moving through.
So she knew that sometimes the surface of the water--
like right now--
would attract the fog and pull it over.
She also knew up at, at the height like this,
that the wind would carry it up and over.
And so she's using those types of factors
to account for some of the shapes that she'll get.
>> BOWEN: But for Nakaya, the process
has become more hands-off as she's gotten older,
relying on the environment to balance out her work.
>> I learned
that nature's rule can be repeated.
And... so I now use these knowledge,
and so I don't do the shaman...
(laughing): so much anymore.
>> BOWEN: Nakaya invites interaction.
Her work is fully immersive--
a foray into the sight, smells, and even taste of fog.
>> Actually walking into it, and getting consumed in it...
It's, it's really unlike anything else.
>> BOWEN: Karen Mauney-Brodek
is the president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy,
the organization responsible for this series of installations
collectively titled Fog x FLO.
That's F-L-O, as in Frederick Law Olmsted,
the visionary landscape architect who designed
this landmark string of public parks
more than a century ago.
>> He believed that people needed that
for their well-being and their health.
And so he very carefully crafted that.
>> BOWEN: Nakaya uses that sentiment as a springboard,
using the elements in what she describes
as "a conversation with nature."
Do you have the sense after 50 years
that it's something you can control?
>> Now I control less.
In the beginning, I thought the wind was the...
enemy, you know?
I know that nature wants to balance itself.
So I let the wind do its...
their, their own performance, you know?
>> BOWEN: Making this where wind, water, and artist
meet the road.
The Outer Cape is where artists Edward and Josephine Hopper
spent half of their year for decades.
Visit the Outer Cape and you'll find that much of it
is still as it was.
As we found out in this exhibition
we first brought you in 2017.
Edward Hopper created indelible city stories,
mining the starkness of solitude time and again.
But in the summertime, Hopper and his wife, Josephine,
relished roaming Cape Cod:
finding the blazing white beacon of Highland Lighthouse;
the frontier-like isolation of the South Truro Church;
or chasing an Outer Cape road that tucks into nowhere.
>> Hopper for sure was an introvert.
He was not a very social person,
and being out in the hills of Truro,
surrounded by hardly anybody, was probably ideal for him.
>> BOWEN: For more than 40 years,
the Hoppers summered and worked on the Cape
in this home he designed,
a secluded spot with solitary ocean views.
And it's here where he made
sketch after sketch after sketch,
says Christine McCarthy, executive director
of the nearby Provincetown Art Association and Museum.
>> We do know that he suffered painter's block quite a bit,
and that he didn't produce 50 paintings a year.
He might have produced three paintings a year,
so I think that the sketching and the drawing were essential
to get him re-motivated.
>> BOWEN: The Hoppers, who were childless,
died within a year of each other in the late 1960s.
Their home and all its contents were left to Josephine's friend
Not long after, a handyman discovered
what's now hanging on the museum's walls.
>> He discovered the drawings and the diaries,
had enough foresight-- thank God-- to call them
and say, "I think you need to come and see this."
>> BOWEN: In late 2016, the collection,
most of which had never been available to the public,
was gifted to the museum by the Schiffenhaus family.
It has been transformative.
What is the gift?
>> The gift is 167 objects of art.
67 drawings and watercolors by Josephine Hopper,
and 97 drawings and sketches by Edward Hopper,
>> BOWEN: And how many Hoppers did you have prior to the gift?
>> One by Josephine and two by Edward, so three.
We went from three to 200 pretty much overnight.
>> BOWEN: The museum is now second
only to New York's Whitney Museum
in Hopper holdings.
And the collection is a revelation
about how Hopper, who had been an illustrator, worked.
How intensive was he about process?
>> Very intensive, and what's wonderful
about the collection that we have
is that you can really see process.
So for example, this series of drawings
are studies for "Summer in the City,"
which was a New York painting,
but he was conceptualizing this while he was here on Cape Cod.
So you're looking at a figure that's seated
on what looks like a chair or a couch,
and it becomes a little bit more developed.
But what's really spectacular
about many of the works in this collection
is that a lot of them are double-sided.
And so what we find out when we take it off
is that on the other side is, again, more sketch
for this specific painting.
>> BOWEN: Here we see how he found his way
to the architecture of aCape Cod Morning,
to the empty storefront ofSeven A.M.,
and toSea Watchers,
which was modeled after the deck in front of his own home.
The collection also reveals how much of an artist Josephine was
in her own right.
But as Edward's career took off, she took a backseat.
>> They met in art school, and she said
that she made her best work before she met him.
However, she will note the fact that she taught him
how to paint watercolors.
So she went down with that claim to fame.
>> BOWEN: The collection suggests the Hoppers
were forever entwined.
Here, she sketches him working onThe Lee Shore,
which he himself labored over.
Same forPamet River Road,
where his work on the canvas peeks out on hers.
Josephine would capture him again and again.
But as her diaries reveal,
theirs were not days of wine and roses.
>> Well, let's just say...
They're very juicy
and they're very soap opera-ish, I would say,
and when I started reading them, I couldn't put them down,
because it's really very specific to the point of,
"I washed my hair today and Eddie didn't even say anything."
>> BOWEN: Curt, irritable, and unfiltered,
Edward encouraged her work, but didn't indulge it.
And he lamented her lack of domesticity.
One word I've never heard associated with Hopper is humor.
>> Yes. >> BOWEN: But he was funny?
>> He actually had a very clever sense of humor
that typically came out in some of the drawings he did.
So for example, this drawing is entitledMeal Time,
and he's depicting himself as a skeleton,
and Josephine is up on her cloud,
reading a book.
And the humor behind it is
that Hopper was six-foot-seven, six-foot-six,
and he needed to eat at least three times a day.
She couldn't understand
why he needed to eat three times a day,
and she wasn't a good cook.
>> BOWEN: But they stayed together,
at home and in art.
And now the fruits of their labors ripen still.
McCarthy anticipates the collection will offer
a new layer of understanding of the Hoppers.
>> The idea is that we can get these out.
We can have them out, we want to lend them.
We want them to be available for research.
Someone said to me,
"With this gift comes great responsibility,"
and I'm learning that overnight.
>> BOWEN: Traveling up the coast now, we move to Gloucester,
where painter Winslow Homer got his sea legs.
Many an artist has heard the siren call of the sea.
For Winslow Homer, it would change his life.
>> We think of him today principally as a marine painter.
Until age 33, though,
he had never shown a marine painting.
>> BOWEN: Until then, Homer had been a well-known illustrator
who'd captured the Civil War from the front lines.
He was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
and was a New Yorker by the time he found the sea
as a painter in 1869.
He was enchanted, says curator Bill Cross.
>> The times of day, the times of tide,
storms washing in and washing out.
The mysterious meeting of land, sea, and sky
was alluring to him, as it is to us.
>> We've been able to assemble 51 works by Homer
here at the Cape Ann Museum.
>> BOWEN: Oliver Barker is the director
of the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester,
whereHomer at the Beach
commemorates the 150th anniversary
of the artist as a marine painter.
>> We know he came here on four separate occasions,
initially to Manchester,
and then three separate occasions to Gloucester.
And so it wasn't accidental.
>> BOWEN: Homer initially sought out the sea
up and down the East Coast.
In New Jersey, he found heavily populated beaches,
with crowds in wool bathing costumes like this one.
But as he moved north,
Homer found vastly different vistas.
He discovered industry in a Gloucester shipyard
and the solitude of rock-strewn beaches.
>> He was very inspired by the ordinary people of Gloucester.
I think as time went on, he started to show
some of the beauty of the surrounding areas.
There are these glorious sunsets.
>> BOWEN: This is the first marine painting
Homer ever exhibited,
inspired by Singing Beach in Manchester.
It went on view in New York.
And, says curator Bill Cross, the critics hated it.
>> He received disdain because he was ahead of his time.
>> BOWEN: Homer had embarked on his marine painting
after a lengthy trip to France,
where he was exposed to all that was new
in European painting, photography,
and Japanese prints,
none of which had yet taken hold in America.
>> Homer was using diffuse light,
had little narrative content.
And the critics wanted less sketchy paintings.
They wanted a work that included figures.
>> BOWEN: The hostile reviews continued
with these two works called Low Tide.
But here Homer's response was equally hostile, and physical.
And I know this is a trick question,
but one painting or two? >> Both.
Homer made his most ambitious painting
based on his visits to Long Branch, New Jersey,
and exhibited it to scorn.
>> BOWEN: Scorn from the critics?
>> Scorn from the critics.
He removed the painting from the exhibition
before the exhibition ended
and took his own knife to it,
dismembered the painting, and turned it into two works.
Only once before in U.S. history
have these two paintings been brought together in this way.
>> BOWEN: Part of the beauty of Homer's works--
the light, the glint of the sea,
and even a lot of the landscapes--
are still as they were.
Living on Ten Pound Island in Gloucester Harbor,
Homer painted some 100 watercolors over one summer.
Today, he's known as one of the best watercolorists ever.
But he had a profound role model:
>> She exhibited her watercolors in New York
before he did.
And when he exhibited his watercolors for the first time,
she was in the same exhibition.
>> BOWEN: Cross says the 11 years of works
in these galleries
are tantamount to an artist
in a process of self-discovery, one that would result
in the most significant works of his career.
What makes them the greatest works?
>> He was discovering these places in himself
through the application of three essential lessons:
and love deeply.
>> BOWEN: We travel to the Berkshires now,
to the home of famed sculptor Daniel Chester French,
who created the seated Lincoln statue
at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
But he didn't just want to create beauty,
he wanted to be surrounded by it.
On a hillside in scenic Stockbridge, Massachusetts,
you'll find the home of Daniel Chester French,
a New England-born artist who carved out a reputation
as one of the premier American sculptors
of the 19th and 20th centuries.
His outsized creations range
from the Minute Man statue in Concord
to his ultimate masterwork:
a seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.
>> When you tour his studio, you see these models
for all these many sculptures that appeared
all over the country.
>> BOWEN: Michael Lynch heads the advisory council
at Chesterwood, the home, studio, and gardens
where French spent some 30 summers sculpting
and soaking up nature.
>> He would come from New York City,
escape the hubbub, and just relax.
And then work ten to 12 hours a day.
He was a driven artist.
>> BOWEN: French purchased the property in 1896
and redesigned the barn as a studio
with the help of Henry Bacon,
his longtime friend and artistic collaborator,
who ultimately became the architect
of the Lincoln Memorial.
The studio and adjacent residence
became French's home away from home,
where he created some of his most monumental works
flanked by the natural beauty of the Berkshires.
>> You can virtually hear the sound of chisels in your ear
as you're watching, looking at these models
and listening to the docent explain
how the various pieces were created.
>> We're standing in Daniel Chester French's studio,
which he built in 1897.
>> BOWEN: Donna Hassler
is the executive director of Chesterwood.
In this studio, she points out a treasure trove
of original sculptures, molds, and references
for some of his most iconic works:
the wingedSpirit of Life, designed for a public park
in Saratoga Springs, New York;
the plaster reliefs of the doors he designed
for the Boston Public Library.
There's even a bronze maquette
of this George Washington statue,
which once reached the 26-foot-high ceilings
of French's studio.
When the work grew too large,
French placed it on custom-designed railroad tracks
and wheeled it outside.
>> He could push a flat car manually outside
and continue to work on his sculpture
in the light of the day,
as well as walk down the hill and get the perspective.
>> BOWEN: A highlight of the studio,
and indeed French's career:
the models he created for the Lincoln Memorial.
In 1917, the Lincoln Monument Association
commissioned French and his friend Bacon
to create a memorial to the slain president
on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
They were a natural choice.
French had already collaborated with Bacon
on a standing Lincoln for the Nebraska state capitol.
The DC memorial took eight years to create,
resulting in a towering 19-foot-tall statue.
To create something that big, French had to start small.
Donna, you, I would venture to say,
know this monument better than most.
What can you tell us about it, even though we think we know it,
that we wouldn't necessarily realize?
>> It's interesting to see the particular work on this scale,
because you can get up close.
And you also see the tool marks in the plaster.
You see a smaller model-- he would start small
and then continue to expand and enhance the figure.
And you see some changes, whereas the leg is...
>> BOWEN: Yeah. >> It's a different stance.
The hands are a little bit different, the head is downcast.
So he's working his ideas in, in three-dimension.
>> BOWEN: When his daily studio work was done,
French retired to his home and gardens
only a few steps away.
>> This is the French family residence.
Most people who walk into this space, they will say,
"Oh, I could live here."
Which is wonderful, it's very intimate.
>> BOWEN: The family residence is preserved as it was.
He, it turns out,
was also something of an interior designer.
The hallway features hand-painted wallpaper
that French chose to bring the natural world inside.
It's all original,
from the sideboard he found at a flea market for eight dollars,
to the typewriter on his desk, to the books on his shelves.
>> He was about creating beauty in his own life,
sharing that beauty with others in his work,
and also in the gardens that he planted here.
>> BOWEN: For French, his gardens were a palate cleanser
and another outlet for his creative potential.
>> If he had enough clay or stone dust,
he could come out here and walk through the garden.
>> BOWEN: The landscape provided a quiet and serene escape
for one of the nation's most prolific sculptors.
Today, it gives visitors a chance
to experience the art and landscape as French did.
>> To come to a studio where the work was actually created,
and to see the process,
you get a real sense of the immediacy of,
"This is where it actually happened."
>> BOWEN: And where the man made monuments.
If you want some art appreciation in Lynn,
all you have to do is look up.
We were there in 2017
when a group of artists began painting massive murals
on otherwise drab brick walls.
>> For me, graffiti is really a reflection of the city.
The community is going to live with...
with our paintings, in a way.
So it's going to be their paintings, not ours anymore.
>> BOWEN: Giving the city of Lynn
some renewed pride in ownership is the mission
of business executive turned art crusader Al Wilson.
Is this something drastic?
>> I think it is, yeah.
I really think it is.
We put up 26,000 square feet of paint.
We did it with 20 artists doing 15 walls in ten days.
>> My name is Victor Quiñonez, I go by Marka27.
I was telling Al, when he first invited me to do this,
I said, "Al, you know, this is so much bigger than you,
and it's bigger than us; it's even bigger than Lynn."
And I really wanted to paint something that kind of
celebrates cultural diversity
and brings beauty to, you know, being from somewhere else.
>> BOWEN: This is the first phase in a project
that will bring more lighting downtown,
that will see the installation of nine vintage neon signs
and the return of the first jet engine
ever manufactured in the U.S.,
made here by G.E. in 1942.
But first, Wilson commissioned these murals
after reviewing more than 70 applicants.
The chief criteria?
The work had to be family-friendly and diverse.
>> It's making sure that we had really top talent
from the Dominican, from Cambodia,
from Puerto Rico, from the various cultural groups
that make up this community.
>> I'm Nicole Salgar.
>> And I'm Chuck Berrett.
And, as a team, we're NS/CB.
New England is obviously the oldest American history
that we have.
And so, we kind of wanted to pay tribute to the people
who were here before the Europeans settled the area.
And so, basically, what we decided to paint was
a female Native who is...
She will be shooting a bow and arrow
basically kind of across the sky.
So, when you come in on the train,
she's shooting across the city of Lynn.
>> My name's Georgia Hill, and I'm an artist
from Sydney, Australia.
This mural forBeyond Walls in Lynn is a large piece
that's kind of lettering and texture together.
So I wanted to spell out something that gave a message
of, "Change is always just around the corner."
>> My name is Cey Adams, and I'm an artist.
This is going to say, "I feel love,"
and it's an homage to Donna Summer.
You didn't see that coming, did you?
>> BOWEN: In just the first weeks
the murals have been installed,
a number of area businesses we spoke with
told us revenue is up, thanks to the mural-bound.
And that's the hope,
that this will make Lynn more destination-worthy,
that the art here will become an economic engine.
For Wilson, it was a good enough business plan for him
to quit his day job.
>> Here, I didn't need to focus on profitability.
I needed to just focus on a return on investment.
Working with the community, you can ensure
that that's what you're able to achieve.
>> You know what? I think that you can transform
a whole community with a can of spray paint.
I really do believe that.
>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.
Next week, on the eve of her graduation from Harvard,
we speak to the nation's youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman,
about her next chapter and verse.
Until then, I'm Jared Bowen.
Stay safe this holiday weekend, and thank you for joining us.
And remember, as always, you can visit us online
And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,
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