The Reverend, His Lover, Their Monet, and The Museum
2015 - ongoing
The Reverend, His Lover, Their Monet, and The Museum is a multimedia project rooted in archival research. Considering the personal and professional legacy of Congregational minister, Reverend William Wolcott (1852-1911), this project examines the way in which his philanthropic desires and intentions conflict with the institutions that have become the guardians of his legacy.
In 1998, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) filed civil action against Trustees of the Lawrence, Massachusetts, White Fund, barring the selling of seventeen paintings bequeathed to the Fund by Reverend Wolcott. The Reverend’s will states his intention to leave his collection of mostly Impressionist paintings, inherited from his brother, Senator Edward O. Wolcott, to the White Fund, in order to “create and gratify a taste for fine arts, particularly among the citizens of Lawrence.” The collection is now valued in excess of $20 million. Wolcott’s will further stipulated that the paintings should be loaned to the MFA for the purpose of exhibition until a suitable space was created for them in Lawrence. That space was never found or created, and subsequently, the paintings have, for the most part, remained in the basement of the MFA since 1911.
My examination of this story is realized through a variety of media: a series of video interviews, photography, text works, sculpture, performance, a Reverend Wolcott look-alike marionette, and an animated tour of “Lawrence’s Museum,” which for all intents and purposes is the basement storage of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The newest work in this series is a small scale museum, housing scaled (hand painted) reproductions of all 17 paintings in the White fund Paintings collection. Constructed by a master carpenter in a former textile mill building in Lawrence, this approximation of a museum houses paintings which were produced in Dafen Village, China in a painting factory, together with their frames, which were hand carved by a master frame maker in Bulgaria. Incorporating architectural features of museums and churches, this museum breaks down into sections which are transported by way of 2 custom built crates. The entire museum is portable, can be taken anywhere, and is assembled on site in about 15 minutes. The crates become the pedestal for the museum. I am deploying the museum in Lawrence in order to introduce "the people of Lawrence" to their paintings, working to open a conversation around what art means and might mean today.
The Reverend, His Lover, Their Monet, and The Museum considers art as currency. When does this art gain value? What value? Whose values?
This work received funding support from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust, and the Berkshire Taconic Foundation’s Artist’s Resource Trust. It also benefited from funding from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation's Artist Advancement Grant.