Ann Carlson and Cow

Ann Carlson and Cow

On a  recent visit to the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA,   I was amused at seeing a toddler sitting on a bench as he watched, with rapt attention, a huge wall-to-wall video of a naked middle-aged woman who was wearing a transparent raincoat partially filled with dollar bills, in a large, hay-filled stall. The woman seemed  to be trying to get the attention of a disinterested cow who did nothing for 8 minutes but chew its cud.  The toddler and the 10 or twelve adults sitting on a long bench opposite the video wall seemed fascinated. My friend Sheila and I were vaguely amused, but on the whole, thought the cow had it right.

Carlson/Strom: New Performance Video is composed of four room-sized video installations–the first major museum presentation of the collaborative work of choreographer and performer Ann Carlson and video instalation artist Mary Ellen Strom.

In what a DeCordova writeup describes as “elegant, sharply executed and humorous”, the artists present recent performance videos that serve as “critical re-evaluations of cultural and historical narratives”  fusing visually spectacular video and the medium’s legacy as a tool for social change. One video– footage of real lawyers mugging it up in front of an elevator,  is relatively funny.

Others, focused on “the moving body within a range of “lasndscapes:” the physical western vista, the economic terrain of late-capitalist America–Guatemalan workers on a beach, seemed sad, even tragic.

No doubt the  artists  are breaking artistic barriers, making important statements in order to get us think about society and our relationships to it. The videos are beautifully done–and maybe I’m being unfair, but I wonder whether, given the reality of life today,  Carlson and Strong might be telling us more about their own removed attitudes than than eliciting new understanding on our part.

The installation, curated by Dina Deitsch, is worth seeing, but Sheila and I  were more taken with”Face to Face, “ presented as a challenge “to our conventional understanding of portraiture by asking us to reevaluate the complexity of the genre and, by extension, representation itself.”

Face-to-Face/ Lebowitz-Young Dyptich

Face-to-Face/ Lebowitz-Young Dyptich

In a diptych, photgraphers  Dick Lebowitz and Tom Young show, in one photo,  three women on a beach; in the other, the photographer who is taking the picture. ” In another photo, “Karl Baden violates the singular ‘I’ by fragmenting his own body. Multiple mouths and eyese suggest that the human subject is a composite rather than a finite whole.”

I agree with curatorial fellow Nina Bozicnik that the images bring up questions of identity, portraiture and representation. But, meaningful as they may be,  most of the photos are actually fun/interesting/pleasing  to look at.

We had a harder time with Tabitha Ververs’ “Narrative Bodies, “ which includes sixty (!)  paintings and sculptures highlighting  ” the artist’s feminist engagement with tradition and myth. vevers_flying-dream_mary2

“Knives carved out of bone become the surface on which female perpetrators of violence throughout history are incised using the scrimshaw techniques.”

Work from a  more recent series of meticulous acryllic paintings on canvas challenges  gender roles by depicting women with tails,  “human” creatures with four legs and male and female anatomy, a mermaid with a split tail and the like.

Another series, exploring the relationship of humans to the sea, is painted on shells in an ancient and intricate Japanese tradition.

Vevers’ pale blues, pinks, peacAdd an Imagehes, and gold prolific are  lovely but the exhibit, curated by Nick Capasso,  is,  ultimately, disturbing–and no doubt, meant to be.

Sheila and I were most  impressed by a retrospective of the work of the late  Boston University  art professor Harold “Red” Tovish, (1921-2008), curated by Bozicnik.

Tovish self portrait-drawing

Tovish self portrait-drawing

We especially liked a display of six bronze sculptures showing the artist’s face and head in a range styles including cubism, surrealism and  what the DeCordova describes as “contemporary biomorphic abstraction.”

Our only disappointment was that by late Sunday afternoon,  the cafe had closed so we were too late to sip  peach iced tea on the deCordova’s lovely terrace.

But  the  provocative art, gardens, outdoor sculptures and view on this early spring day were well worth the trip.

The DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park is located at 51 Sandy Pond Rd
Lincoln, MA 01773 781/259-8355. All four exhibits will be up through May 17.

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group,


While conservative commentator Laura Ingraham said yesterday on the Today Show that  President Obama has accomplished little of worth in his first two months in office, CBS  Evening News Producer Rick Kaplan would strongly disagree.

At a seminar held on Tuesday at  Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, Kaplan said that Obama’s record  so far has been “extraordinary.”

The “first 100 days” is a construct that began with FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and can be a useful time for judging what policies are most important to a president– before Congress and  administration insiders have  a chance to “carve out turf”… and “start bickering,” Kaplan said.

In his view, Obama has used this period well.

The President  has frozen all of former President George W. Bush’s last minute  “midnight regulations,” ended the  “gag rule” prohibiting mention of abortion in organizations receiving federal funds; put  forth ethics and lobbying bills; and passed the $800B TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) legislation, Kaplan said.

Equally impressive was  Obama’s performance at the recent G20 Summit in London.  “I’ve never seen anything like it,”  Kaplan said. At the meeting of the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, “people  listened and were impressed. When he stood up, it was a proud moment for America.”

At news conferences, “he let the other guy go first. He grabbed President Sarkosi and the President of China; he huddled with them and [got] them to agree on a contentious set of…offshore policies. He makes the deal and at the end, both Sarcozy and the Chinese leader are smiling.

“In a meeting with the Russians on an arms deal, he gets a promise for a summit.  He meets with the South Koreans to talk about their concerns about [that day’s] North Korean missile launch….”

“And as he’s leaving…in an ‘organized leak,’ he said he would allow Cuban nationals to go and see their families and give them money.

“It was extraordinary to see him work the room in a respectful, aggressive, impressive. way. The leaders didn’t all agree with him, but they liked and respected him.”

“He’s had an extraordinary run in just 60 days. He never shows tension, never seems impacted one way or another or angry. He’s the ‘coolest guy in the room.”

Still, Kaplan said, not all is rosy.

For example,   the  President had known  known for weeks that bonuses were to be paid in Wall Street firms receiving bailout money, which made Obama’s  expressed “outrage” seemed hypocritical.  The press “let him off the hook a bit… It’s great to have dialogue, and the press corps is nervous about shaking up the relationship”  at a time [of economic crisis] where everyone is looking for stability.”

Asked (by me) what he foresees for the future of print media, Kaplan said that papers like the Boston Globe must survive,  and that the current “unwinding” could turn out to be healthy in the long run. It will likely lead to new models and  put an end to newspapers driven by owners who are more concerned about investors’ profits than their own communities, Kaplan said.


The New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

Was surprised last night  when  two Pulitzer-prize-winning journalists locked horns on WGBH-TV’s  Greater Boston.

In a heated discussion of the New York Times’ threat to shutter the Boston Globe if employment concessions aren’t made,  former  Globe Columnist Eileen McNamara, who now teaches at Brandeis, charged that the Times is only out to save itself and doesn’t care about Boston or the Globe. She and host Emily Rooney criticized the Times for a lack of “transparency,” in threatening  to shut down the paper just a week after some 50 reporters were required to take buyouts or risk being laid off. McNamara called for an investigation into how Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. could have  so mishandled the papers’  strategies and finances.

Alex Jones, the former New York Times reporter who now directs Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, said that Sulzberger has long been seeking ways to keep his papers on sound financial footing and pointed out that the Times and Globe are just two  of many papers threatened by  huge operating losses.  With countless subscribers migrating to “free” news on the Internet and advertisers cutting back in the current financial crisis, several papers have already declared bankruptcy.

I agree with Jones  that there’s no point in focusing on the New York Times as the bad guy in all of this;   the Globe is crucial to the Boston and New England communities, which must find ways to keep the paper alive.

The Boston Foundation  has put together a blue ribbon panel to seek with solutions–which might include a takeover of the Globe  by a consortium of nonprofits until the Globe’s economic situation improves.

The Globe reported this morning that both employees and management will be taking cuts in pay and security, and that 20 bloggers, organized by Paul Levy, president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, simultaneously published a post asking readers to submit suggestions on how the Globe can improve its financial position.

(Levy’s blog is at

I’ve joined the rally in a separate post.

I hope a solution is imminent  because good journalism provides crucial lifeblood to any community. As the so-called “fourth estate,” it serves as a watchdog on government, allows citizens to communicate with one another, and helps organize the thoughts, lives and livehoods of individuals and institution in a democracy.  Broadcast and Internet media certainly contribute to this–but, by and large, it’s  print reporters to do the heavy lifting.


Anita M. Harris is an award-winning former journalist who has founded a weekly alternative newspaper,  written for Newsday, produced documentaries for WRFM Radio and co-produced more than 100 live panel programs for the MacNeil/Lehrer Report (now the Newshour) of National Public television. She has taught journalism at Harvard andYale Universities and at Simmons College.

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

The New Cambridge Observer is pleased to join Beth Israel Hospital’s Paul Levy et all in the rally to help the Boston Globe. Here’s the post, followed by a partial list of participating bloggers. I believe the idea is to leave comments on Paul Levy’s blog at, but if you leave them here, I’ll link or forward.  AMH
Here’s the post:

We have all read recently about the threat of possible closure faced by the Boston Globe. A number of Boston-based bloggers who care about the continued existence of the Globe have banded together in conducting a blog rally. We are simultaneously posting this paragraph to solicit your ideas of steps the Globe could take to improve its financial picture:

We view the Globe as an important community resource, and we think that lots of people in the region agree and might have creative ideas that might help in this situation. So, here’s your chance. Please don’t write with nasty comments and sarcasm: Use this forum for thoughtful and interesting steps you would recommend to the management that would improve readership, enhance the Globe’s community presence, and make money. Who knows, someone here might come up with an idea that will work, or at least help. Thank you.

(P.S. If you have a blog, please feel free to reprint this item and post it. Likewise, if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, please add this url as an update or to your status bar to help us reach more people.)

Paul Levy said…
And two more:

A lovely, eclectic show called “Float”  at the Clark Gallery,  145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, MA, exhibits works on nautical themes by 24 artists.

Pieces range from a model wooden ship, c. 1900 by an unattributed  artist  to  Wendy Jean Hyde’s video installation showing a polar bear swimming back  and forth on a large plasma screen.

A few of my other  favorites included:


Rebecca Kincaid’s  oil, fabric & mixed media painting “Winter Sailor,” armstrongewhiteout12367209089711 Chris Armstrong’s  oil on alumninum  “Whiteout,”

and Patricia Burleson’s Springmelt 6,. It’s an 18″x24″x18″  “boat” composed of wire, lace, bones, shredded tire, vine buttons, found metal and wood including saw blad, barbed wire, springs, strainers, whisk, scissors, sticks spoon and found objects including purse, balls, harmonic, baseball glove, clothes, pins nail clippers and fan.

I was impressed by Rob Napier’s tiny model ships, and  by Jerry Beck’s “The Dreams of Small fish (from his Secret Art of Loon Park, Oaracle Series).

My friend Mark H. noticed the playful spelling of “oaracle,”which makes sense because the work is a floor-to-ceiling=sized  oar (136x15x3″). Its shaft is a 3” clear acryllic tube filled with dried, shellacked fish and mushrooms.

It’s a fun show; I wish I could write up every piece but you can see them at the gallery through April 30 or view more photos online.


New Cambridge Observer is a publication of  the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.