Museum day!

Museum day!

The whole purpose of my trip this summer was to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which for some reason captured my imagination and drew me from East Africa to Western Massachusetts (in a happily roundabout way).

I was not disappointed. The museum is located in North Adams, in the far northwestern corner of the state, which is a lovely little town in and of itself.

See? It’s lovely.

The museum itself is an enormous old factory, and anyone into post-industrial chic will geek out on the details. In places the building itself is as compelling as the artworks it houses.


In Julianne Schwartz’s tonal hallway, disembodied voices come at you from all directions as you walk through. Some are singing and some just making sounds, and the whole effect is immersive and enchanting.


Robert Rauschenberg’s Quake in Paradise (Labyrinth), fitting in beautifully with the space.

I was especially enchanted by the Boiler House, where the old industrial material is being allowed to be rot away through what the literature descibes as “nature’s counterpunch.”


My favorite thing was an installation by the always-incredible Lauria Anderson, but since it was all virtual reality I didn’t take any pictures of it. Luckily, everything else was pretty awesome, too. Here are some of my favorite pictures that I took today:

Elizabeth King’s Radical Small, built around doll parts and video installations, was hauntingly beautiful.


Nick Cave’s Until fills a football field-sized room with tens of thousands of spinners and another assorted items:


The museum gives a lot of space over to Sol Lewitt. They make a point of telling you in many languages that you should not touch the walls, but the sign that convinced me was the one where they explained that they didn’t want to have to put ropes around the art, so please be cool. I obliged by not touching anything.


Other artists, whose names I apparently didn’t catch (if you know who they are, do let me know):


And this one, because no museum is complete without big pink dildos.

Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village

At the far western end of Massachusetts—so far west that it’s basically upstate New York, and thus brushes up against my policy of never going above 96th Street if I can help it—lie the Berkshires, a place I’ve heard of but (obviously) have never visited.

My ostensible goal is to visit the Masschusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or Mass MOCA as it is called by those-in-the-know, but there is a lot to do in the area so I decided to take some of that in, too. First stop was the Hancock Shaker Village, home (former home?) to a religious community best known for its utopian beliefs and fantastic minimalist style, probably not in that order.

At this point a proper writer would give you a meaningful history of the Shakers and their legacy in this part of the United States, but unfortunately it was about to rain and I wanted to make sure I saw everything before it was too late so I skipped the tour and didn’t read any of the signs. I did take a bunch of pictures, though, my favorites of which I am happy to share here. Continue reading “Hancock Shaker Village”

Whale watching in Massachusetts 

Whale watching in Massachusetts 

I read Moby Dick at the start of this year, and while that book did nothing to influence my decision to take a whale watching cruise yesterday, I did reflect on what I’d read during the voyage.

(Don’t think me too smart, though: because it was a three-hour tour, I also hummed the theme to Gilligan’s Island for most of the trip.)

(And, more embarrassingly, I hummed the Titanic song whenever I went to the prow of the ship. I actually hum this song whenever I am on a boat. Any boat. Cruise ships, car ferries, log flume rides. Anything. It never gets old for me. I didn’t even like that movie.)

The whale watch left from Barnstable on Cape Cod. It was a jet-powered ship, meaning it had no turning parts that could injure the less-thoughtful whales. I imagine a teenage whale, perhaps looking too intently at his or her whale iPhone, stumbling into a rotor, but I guess that probably isn’t how it works. Continue reading “Whale watching in Massachusetts “