The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield wants all its visitors to know that summer is a time for being a sloth. And the way the museum is conveying this message is by choosing “Sloth” as the theme of its new exhibition, opening July 19.
The exhibition is part of The Seven Deadly Sins, the first collaboration between the Fairfield/Westchester Museum Alliance (FWMA), a group of arts institutions in Connecticut and New York. Over the course of the summer, each museum in the alliance is featuring an exhibit that highlights a different sin. Presentations of each sin were designed by each museum, and run the full gamut in creativity.
Visitors to any one of the museums receive a free pass to see the exhibits at all of them and are encouraged to do so to get the complete Seven Deadly Sins experience. However, in staying true to the theme of sloth, guests at the Aldrich get to take the lazy way out and watch the other six exhibits without having to step foot outside the museum.
“Visitors will get to watch a video of how each of the other museums has portrayed its sin,” said Aldrich’s exhibitions director Richard Klein. They will do so while sitting on six plush Bob-O-Pedic Swivel recliners that have been set up both inside and outside the museum.
Klein said the recliner is a universal symbol of laziness. “Visitors can stretch back and watch the videos, and in this way they get to experience all the other exhibits. It’s armchair traveling.” The exhibit was created by artist Mats Bigert and writer Sina Najafi.
Each of the videos is approximately six minutes long. The exhibit also contains a free newspaper vending machine, where visitors can read a tabloid-style newspaper containing quotes, anecdotes, and advertisements all relating to the theme of sloth.
At Wave Hill, the public garden and cultural center in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, the sin of wrath is being shown in full force (Wrath — Force of Nature, June 7-Sept. 7wavehill.org, 718-549-3200). Jennifer McGregor, Wave Hill’s director of arts, said each of the paintings and sculptures that are part of Wrath depicts the effects of natural disasters and climate change, such as hurricanes, volcanoes, floods, and fires.
“Because we are a garden and a cultural center, our mission is always to connect people to nature. We interpret wrath as exploring the force of nature,” McGregor said.
On Wave Hill’s lawn there is a sculpture of a fallen telephone pole that is sprouting tiny telephone poles. According to McGregor, this is meant to resemble a tree that is falling over and sprouting leaves.
“People are really affected by looking at forces of nature, such as Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, and Katrina. Each of the paintings and sculptures hit home with people’s actual experiences with wrath. They give them a way to talk over their concerns about these natural disasters,” McGregor said.
Envy is the theme of the exhibit at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, N.Y. (June 6-Sept. 26; hrm.org; 914-963-4550). The exhibit, called Envy: One Sin, Seven Stories, is made up entirely of photographs and staged vignettes of fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and The Singing Bone. Real life models and a celebrity or two (Mario Batali, for one) play the roles.
“In Snow White, the evil queen is the personification of envy,” said Linda Locke, Hudson River’s director of publications. In one scene, the queen is holding an apple and looking in the mirror.
The Cinderella stage set shows an entire dressing room set up next to photographs of Cinderella’s step-sisters, who are trying on shoes to see if they fit.
The envy exhibit was designed by Brooklyn artist Adrien Broom, who, according to Locke, is known “for her beautiful photographs of people, and fairy tales are very much a people kind of story. They are modeled on all of us and on what we do.”
“What happens in fairy tales is you’ve got a sin, you’ve got a problem, but in the end, good triumphs,” Locke said.
While it may be obvious right up front why many of the Seven Deadly Sins are considered to be sins, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, where the exhibit is “Pride, the sin of arrogance,” would like its visitors to reflect on why pride is, in fact, a sin. (June 27-Oct. 18; brucemuseum.org; 203-869-0376).
“Especially today, people are asking why is pride a sin,” said Susan Ball, the Bruce Museum’s deputy director. “With this exhibit, we want them to think about how the sin of pride has been depicted throughout history. The main question we want them to ask themselves is at what point do we cross the line from healthy self-esteem ‘pride’ to arrogant self-aggrandizement, which is the sin of pridefulness.”
The Bruce Museum’s exhibit consists of 44 works, including etchings, engravings, drawings, paintings, sculpture, and video. Each of these contains attributes of the sin of pride — from vain men and women, to peacocks and lions.
The Pride exhibition begins with an engraving of the expulsion of Adam and Eve by Dutch artist Pieter Saenredam. “This is the earliest example of punishment for the sin of pride in the Bible. Adrien is known for his beautiful photographs of people, and fairy tales are very much a people kind of story. They are modeled on all of us and on what we do,” explained Ball.
“The Seven Deadly Sins are not listed in the Bible, but they played a significant role in theology, literature, and arts for centuries. They were first used in the Fourth Century as guidelines to attain spirituality and avoid temptation of evil,” Ball said.
Alyson Baker, executive director at the Aldrich, said The Seven Deadly Sins gives each museum in the alliance a great opportunity to be able to share content and to drive audiences between one institution and another. “We really do want people to understand the rich cultural resources that are in their area and available to them,” she said.
Cost for the Aldrich exhibit of Sloth is $10 for adults; $5 for seniors; and free for children under 18. The Aldrich is having a free opening reception from 2 to 5 p.m. July 19, and a free closing reception from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. September 19.
The museums taking part in the Fairfield/Westchester Museum Alliance are: The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield (Sloth), the Bruce Museum in Greenwich (Pride), the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers (Envy), the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, N.Y. (Lust, April 19-July 26; hvcca.org; 914-788-0100), the Katonah (N.Y.) Museum of Art (Gluttony — Emilie Clark: The Delicacy of Decomposition, July 12-Sept. 6; katonahmuseum.org, 914-232-9555), the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, N.Y. (Greed — Gold, July 12-Oct. 11; neuberger.org; 914-251-6100), and Wave Hill in the Bronx (Wrath).
For more information on the Fairfield /Westchester Museum Alliance, visit www.aldrichart.org or call the Aldrich Museum, 258 Main Street, Ridgefield, at 203-438-4519.