Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S8 E40 | FULL EPISODE

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.

AIRED: May 22, 2020 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> 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!

>> Oh, yeah, it's going up. >> It's going this way!

>> BOWEN: And suddenly, a fastidiously formed fog

rolls in.

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

in 1969.

>> 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,

people said...

(laughing): I, I'm like a shaman, trying to...

But now...

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?

Hazard.

But now,

I know that nature wants to balance itself.

It's autonomous.

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

Mary Schiffenhaus.

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,

22 diaries...

>> 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.

(Bowen laughs)

Homer made his most ambitious painting

based on his visits to Long Branch, New Jersey,

in 1869,

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:

his mother.

>> 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:

Travel widely,

experiment boldly,

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

at wgbh.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioWGBH.

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