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Mildred's Lane / Renovating Walden

September 9 to November 14, 2010
Tisch Gallery

An immersive and participatory installation spearheaded by noted American artists J. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion, exploring the meanings, readings, and mis-readings that Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" has spawned. The installation functions as a kind of stage set that is animated by an extensive program of mid-day and early evening topical conversations, modeled after the 19th century lyceum, that are open to the public and featuring many members of the Tufts faculty from across the division of Arts & Sciences. A "re-enactment" of Ralph Waldo Emerson's parlor serves as the setting for open class sessions of a variety of Tufts courses. One authentic replica of Thoreau's cabin will be built first in September/October, followed by an inspired response to it in the form of a second cabin built inside the Gallery.

The project is focused on a methodological process that unfolds gradually during the ten-week run of its exhibition, but its development is set to begin during the summer in a collaborative setting in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, at Mildred's Lane, Puett's and Dion's artists' colony in Beach Lake, PA, where six graduate students from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, a joint degree partner with Tufts, have enrolled in an SMFA course to develop the exhibition's content. A three-week residency session, involving a panoply of artists, curators, directors, academics, naturalists, and others, entitled "Town & Country," explores the complex relationship between the city and the countryside by investigating the place the rural world occupies in the projections, fantasies, economy, and antagonisms of the cosmopolitan set. This dialectic is responsible for a cultural production as diverse as the invention of the Adirondack style, the formation of 60s communes, the Urban Cowboy, and the new urban garden movement. In addition, we will study Henry David Thoreau and the Transcendentalist Movement. The residency will celebrate, examine, parody and understand the inherent contradictions in new attempts at Bohemian life and the attendant history of these attempts.

Artists' Profiles:
J. Morgan Puett (b. 1957, Hahira, Georgia) emerged in the mid-1980s in New York as a celebrated fashion designer, rising to prominence for her hand-made and richly textured clothing, and for the quirky and patinated environments she designed as stores and creative generators in SoHo and TriBeCa neighborhoods until 2001. Since then, she has focused her endeavors on large-scale collaborative projects that extend her interest in the cultural manifestations of fashion and site; projects have been commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Santa Barbara Contemporary Art Forum; the Abington Art Center, Philadelphia; Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA; Artex, Arnhern, Amsterdam; The Fabric Workshop Museum, Philadelphia; Wave Hill, Bronx, New York; the Serpentine Gallery, London; and the 2002 Spoletto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. Puett received her BFA and MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. Mark Dion (b.1961, New Bedford, Massachusetts) attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in 1985. He received a BFA in 1986 and an honorary doctorate in 2003 from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut. Dion's work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between 'objective' ('rational') scientific methods and 'subjective' ('irrational') influences. The artist's spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkabinetts of the 16th Century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.

Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001). He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); and Tate Gallery, London (1999). "Neukom Vivarium" (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum.

Mildred's Lane
Since 2006, J. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion have re-imagined community and learning environments through their summer artist's colony Mildred's Lane, a hybridized art education institute and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania, in the northeastern part of the state. This approach to collaborative practice, which Puett and Dion term "workstyles," offers an integration of art-making, lifestyle, sustainability, and industrial life. Puett has deployed this practice at Alexander Gray Associates, New York (January 2010 in {of, with, as, for, them, and, it} Workstylings), the Queens Museum, as well as at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Headlands Center for the Arts/California College of Arts.

Guest Curator
curatorsquared (or c2), a curatorial collaboration between Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox, develops exhibitions exploring current issues in culture and design. Together Duggan and Fox have organized OVER + OVER: A Passion for Process, Branded and On Display, FA�ADES, Blown Away, and WOWdesign: Marloes ten Bh�mer, among other projects. An independent curator and founder of Remote Control Curatorial, LLC, Duggan has held curatorial posts at the Bellevue Arts Museum in suburban Seattle and the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Based in Orlando, FL, Duggan also teaches and writes on contemporary art. Fox was Visiting Curator at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 2006 to 2008, after spending 19 years at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, and holding curatorial positions at the Harvard University Art Museums; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design; and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Fox, who lives in Boston, MA, writes and speaks on contemporary art.

Renovating Walden Links:

Guest Curators curatorsquared (Judith Hoos Fox and Ginger Gregg Duggan)

All images are of Mildred's Lane and are provided courtesy of the artists.

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