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Missing Narratives

The Mystic Museum of Art newsletter always inspires the creative part of my brain. In this instance it was particularly inspiring in the wording and invitation for all to join in. I hope it inspires you as it did me.

Reprinted with permission from Susan Fisher, Executive Director MMoA

Dear Members, Friends, and Neighbors,

You may recognize the “incident of the dog in the night” exchange above from a story called Silver Blaze, written in 1892. As he did so often, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle coined an insight so precisely that it has been quoted ever since—in this case, that you can’t understand what’s happening unless you realize what’s missing.

We’re witnessing a rare moment when the narratives that have been missing from the daily life of our country are urgently being reclaimed, reasserted. Whether we find them disturbing or enriching, inspiring or shameful, they can never be as harmful as their absence has been.

Jack Gosselin, United Plates of America, metal on wood

On the fourth of July, MMoA opened an online exhibition to start making room for missing narratives. Exhibitions manager Amelia Onorato published an open invitation for artists to create a work of art and an interpretive statement to share on their concept of “Americana.” Here are some previews:

Rita Dawley, The Gathering, mixed media

This work was compiled from old and new pieces in a quilt-like format. The images include people, animals, homes, layers of land and water. These images are intertwined with patterns of red, white, and blue. This complexity is what America means to me.

Donna O’Scolaigh Lange, Selma to Montgomery, 1965, collage on board

Even as small children living in Arkansas in 1957, my brother and I were impressed with the brave students who integrated Little Rock High School. This image shows one of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Black and white participants, some carrying American flags, worked peacefully together for this cause…

And, from a whole different perspective on Americana:

Catherine R. Mansell, Hot Blueberry Pie, ink, wax, and paper

“Pie really is an American evil,” Kate Masterson wrote in the New York Times in 1902. It is an “unmoral food,” she warned, offering advice for spotting pie eaters: They have “sallow complexions” and “lusterless or unnaturally bright eyes” and, of course, they “are all dyspeptic.” “No great man,” she wrote, “was ever fond of pie.” But Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1892 that the American Northeast was “the great American pie belt.”—[source: Smithsonian Magazine, 2019].

Blueberry pie, in my opinion, is the greatest of all Northeast pies and so here it is! Comfort and antioxidants all rolled into one!

As MMoA’s first entirely virtual exhibition from concept to completion, Americana may be viewed until September 26.

In her reflections on the 4th of July, MMoA artist and educator Lavanya Shubhakar, created an art project for families to do together entitled Celestial Vibrance756–Fireworks in Space. Click on the image below to get started.

Perhaps your narrative isn’t so much about making art but simple self-reflection? Contour drawing and the pleasure of just making lines are for artists and non-artists alike. Education Manager Mary Addison offers a method of loosening up your creative self-expression; click on the image below and explore the possibilities.

I invite you to send us your narratives and your artwork, and to post them on social media with the hashtags #MMoAcommunity and #MMoAatHome.

We’re in the midst of upheaval, and besieged by a pandemic. Now, more than ever, your voice matters. Your art matters. I believe in art the way that Toni Morrison believed in language:

There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

With fondest regards,
Susan Fisher