|Whalers and witchcraft
||[Nov. 23rd, 2014|06:22 pm]
Meanwhile, back in September: Wednesday was the day we spent in Boston; Thursday we spent in Cambridge with nineweaving and others; on Friday I built myself a nest in our cosy bed which filled very nearly the whole of J.'s study, and treated my cold with sleep, Swiss sugar-free throat sweets and an abundance of paper hankies.
The treatment was successful, and by evening I was feeling well enough to go out to dinner with sunspiral and roozle. One of the good things that came out of that dinner was that our hosts recommended an excursion to Salem, to the Peabody Essex Museum. So that's what the four of us did on Saturday.
durham_rambler and I had been to Salem before, long ago. We had walked by the sea, and watched the gulls cracking open mussels by dropping them on the jetty, and we had visited a museum (which did not in my memory match the description of the Peabody Essex - more local history, less art gallery - but in retrospect clearly was). This time we walked through a street market, past shops which were gearing up to make the most of Hallowe'en, and I thought of Whitby, and wondered what it was about whaling ports and witchcraft.
The museum's entrance hall is an amazing space, high and light and airy, but it leads into galleries which are dim and warm: good for the treasures stored there, but a challenge to my still rather stuffed-up head. The collection is - as J. said - eclectic, and not always well explained. If I were showing you round, I'd be pointing out individual favourites: one particular blue and white vase, big and round, some scrimshaws, including a whalebone pastry wheel, some netsuke (especially the rat and daikon), a totem pole-like sculpture of found textiles (which turns out to be a Nick Cave Soundsuit, but the more I learn about these, the less that description matches what I saw). To my surprise, I enjoyed the current exhibition of Alexander Calder mobiles. Yes, it had been particularly recommended to us, but I don't have a high success rate with modern art, and Calder's mobiles all seem to do the same thing. Nonetheless, it was pleasant, and mildly hypnotic, to wander around and watch them doing it.
Actually, I did have a favourite gallery, the Native American Art collection which we came to right at the end of our visit. I saw a few things, beautifully displayed but not necessarily clearly explained or contextualised, and now I'm looking at the website and discovering how much I missed: I certainly didn't see this rattle made of puffin beaks, for example. I did see this, though, Carl Stromquist's Lunar Eclipse of Hale Bopp, which doesn't seem to have made it onto the PEM website:
Exit through the gift shop. There aren't many museum gift shop's where I can't find anything to buy, but this was one: many arty objects designed to appeal to cultured people who like the museum, but not so much relating to what I'd seen and liked.
And home via Trader Joe's, the perfect finale to any excursion. The man on the checkout enthused over my purchase of 'hobo bread' - "Oh, brown bread! We used to eat this when I was a kid..."