Go Lunar with New Exhibit Launching October 15
SALEM – The Peabody Essex Museum invites visitors to launch beyond our atmosphere with Lunar Attraction, an exhibition designed to discover the many ways artists across cultures and centuries have mined the moon for inspiration. Nearly 60 paintings, sculptures, photographs, books, movies, Apollo memorabilia and even a moon rock will be on hand. The exhibition opens October 15 with an opening day festival in the PEM’s Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center.
Lunar Attraction features artworks and interactives that explore our longstanding fascination and connection with the moon including longstanding myths of werewolves and the full moon, the gravitational pull that controls Earth’s tides, and the 21st-century international race to build a base on the moon.
“Unlike the sun, the moon goes through a transformation of waxing and waning every month so there is all of this storytelling around why this happens and what it means as part of our inherent desire to make sense of things,” says Jane Winchell, The Sarah Fraser Robbins Director of the Art & Nature Center.
“To me, the moon represents a wonderful topic to explore the intersection of science, culture and art because it has been a constant throughout the course of human experience.”
The exhibition, which mixes the science of the moon with its mystique, comes at an interesting juncture in moon exploration. The European Space Agency has recently announced plans to construct a lunar base by the 2030s. Japan and other nations have expressed similar intentions, while questions remain as to whether the U.S. will once again invest in exploring this frontier.
Lunar Attraction’s offerings include a NASA-supplied moon rock and a commemorative textile made in the Netherlands documenting the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Neil Armstrong’s first steps on July 20, 1969, became an important part of American pop culture and pride that also captured the imagination of people around the globe.
Located nearly 239,000 miles away from us, the moon influences life here on Earth. Many understand that the gravitational pull of the moon controls our ocean tides. But few recognize that the moon makes our planet a more livable place by moderating its wobble as it orbits the sun.
“The moon has helped enable Earth to evolve with such complexity yet many people are unaware of its great influence,” says Winchell. “We don’t tend to notice what phase the moon is in or where to look for it, and so there is this common disconnect most people have with something that is closely tied to our existence.”
Lunar Attraction features a number of historic artworks as well as contemporary pieces by Michael Benson, Adam David Brown, Craig Dorety, Fred Espenak, Foster + Partners, Sharon Harper, Beth Hoeckel, Mike Libby, Scott Listfield, Vera Lutter, Greg Mort, Takashi Murakami, Young Sook Park, Adrien Segal, Reel Water Productions, Sputniko!, Peter C. Stone, Brian Thomas, Philip Weber and Joseph Wheelwright.
At the age of 13, Greg Mort’s perspective of the universe was forever changed when he peered through a friend’s telescope. His first up-close view of the craters of the moon would lead to a fascination with the Apollo space missions and later propelled him to work as a commissioned artist for NASA. Three works by Mort are included in the exhibition, including a watercolor painting that riffs off the moon-is-made-of-cheese myth, humorously titled Space Aged — For the Crater Gouda.
A table-size sculpture by contemporary artist Adrien Segal documents the invisible force of the moon on ocean tides. Individual curved steel bars represent the rise and fall of the tides in San Francisco Bay over the course of 28 days. Meanwhile, Joseph Wheelwright created a sculpture of the moon each year for 28 years, capturing the mood of the moment when he made it. Seven “Moons” from this series are on view in Lunar Attraction.
While most of us will never make it to the moon, we can always pretend. Artist Craig Doherty’s carved wooden panels recreate the surface texture and people are invited to run their fingers across a touchable carving made by the artist specifically for this show. A scale station reveals what you would weigh on the moon. (Thanks to a much weaker gravity on the moon, most are sure to like the number it reads out.)
In a nod to the past and the present, contemporary artist Young Sook Park’s work reveals how she mastered the once-lost art form of making moon jars, unique to Korea in the 18th century. A Japanese hibachi from the PEM collection made in the 18th or 19th centuries is in the shape of a rabbit, likely inspired by a folktale about a moon rabbit popular in East Asian cultures. A wall projection of the moon allows people to seek out shapes in the moon, while shadow puppet props help you create your own stories.
Considered one of the world’s first science fiction movies, a restored colorized version of the 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon by French director Georges Méliès, is projected on a continuous loop. There’s also a listening station with moon-inspired tunes and people can tweet suggested favorites using #LunarAttraction.
Like many of the artists on view, Winchell says she has personally viewed the moon as an inspiring force for as long as she can remember. She hopes people leave the exhibition with a new appreciation for our only natural satellite and the miraculous transformation that we are privileged to witness every month.
“I have always gone to some lengths to be able to watch a full moon rise,” says Winchell. “Just ask my family. They can recount the many places I have dragged them. If there’s a full moon, all bets are off.”
Opening Day Festival Information
Take a fresh look at all things lunar as we move beyond the science and dive into humankind’s longstanding fascination with Earth’s closest celestial body. Enjoy art making, music, film shorts, stories, astronaut ice cream and so much more! Events are listed below, and additional details can be found by visiting pem.org/calendar.
When? Saturday, October 15, 2016 from 10:30AM to 3PM
DROP-IN ART MAKING | Moon Watercolors | 10:30 am-3 pm | Atrium
Create a watercolor inspired by the moon with Lunar Attraction featured artist and educator Peter Stone. Learn about lunar symbolism, view paintings from Stone’s Dreams to Dance in Moonlight series, and watch the artist in action at one of his 20-minute painting demonstrations, at 11:30 am, 1:30 and 2:30 pm.
PERFORMANCE | Tales of the Moon | 11-11:45 am | Morse Auditorium
Explore lunar lore with award-winning storyteller Odds Bodkin as he recounts moon tales from cultures around the world. These stories are sure to delight with dynamic character voices and a live musical score.
DROP-IN ART MAKING | Moon Journaling | 11 am-3 pm | Create Space
Make a moon journal with author, artist and nature journaling expert Clare Walker Leslie. Get tips on sketching the moon and recording what you see.
FOOD TASTING | Moon Munchies |Noon-1:30 pm | Atrium
Nibble on moon cheese, taste astronaut freeze-dried ice cream, sip on Tang and munch on some moon rocks!
FILMS | Lunar Shorts | 1-1:30 pm | Morse Auditorium
In Nick Park’s animated short A Grand Day Out, Wallace and Gromit build a rocket and make a zany trip to the moon (1989, 23 minutes, not rated). Next up is Moon Shot-Episode 8: Moonbots Mecaliks, which follows a 9-year-old girl from Mexico who joins an all-girl team in a worldwide robotics competition for kids (2016, 7 minutes, not rated, English subtitles).
ARTIST PRESENTATION | Greg Mort: Moon Man | 2:15-3 pm | Morse Auditorium
Meet NASA artist Greg Mort as he talks about his lifelong passion for the night sky. Learn about common moon misconceptions and how Mort’s art ended up in the White House. Recommended for ages 8 to adult.
OUTDOOR EXPLORATION | Moonrise Viewing | 6-7 pm | Salem Willows Park
Observe the rising moon through different telescopes plus learn about its nature and lunar landmarks from amateur astronomer Greg Mort and local astronomy experts. Event held weather permitting.
More About the Peabody Essex Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is one of the oldest and fastest growing museums in North America. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. Founded in 1799, the museum’s collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time — including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, as well as Native American, Oceanic and African art. PEM’s campus affords a varied and unique guest experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities, performance spaces and historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese House, a 200-year-old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States.
For more information, call (866) 745-1876 or visit www.pem.org.