MFA/Mass Poetry - Poets in the galleries

In fall of 2018 - from September through November - three poets will act as Poets in Residence at the galleries in the Museum of Fine Arts. The workshops will take place on Wednesday evenings (when the museum is open to the public for free) from 6:30 - 8:30 pm. The workshops are designed to be drop-in (although you can stay for the whole time if you like!) No poetry experience is required.

Once you write a poem based on the exhibit, you can submit it here. It might be featured online (on the Mass Poetry or MFA website), chosen as a Poem of the Moment by Mass Poetry, printed on a postcard and displayed at the MFA, or excerpted for a Raining Poetry installation!

See below for descriptions of the exhibitions, dates, and poet bios.


Regie Gibson will lead a workshop at the French Pastels exhibit September 5, 12, 19 and 26

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Literaryperformer Regie Gibson has lectured and performed widely in the U.S., Cuba and Europe. As a representative of the U.S., Regiecompeted for and received the Absolute Poetry Award in Monfalcone, Italy. He and his work appear in “love jones” a feature-film based on events in his life. He’s been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, various NPR programs, nominated for a Boston Emmy and has been a featured presenter for several Ted X events. He’s served as a consultant for both the National Endowment for the Arts “How Art Works” initiative and the “Mere Distinction of Color”: an exhibit at James Madison’s Montpelier, examining the legacy of slavery and the U.S. constitution.Regiehas performed with and composed texts for The Boston City Singers, The Mystic Chorale and the Handel+Haydn Society. He’s been published in Poetry Magazine, Harvard’s Divinity Magazine, and The Iowa Review, among others. His volume of poems, “Storms Beneath the Skin”, has received the Golden Pen Award and he is a recent recipient of a 2017 Brother Thomas Fellowship for Artistic Excellence from The Boston Foundation.

Masterworks of Nineteenth-Century French Pastel from Millet to Degas

The medium of pastel is deceptive; the colorful sticks seem so simple to use, but the powdery surface can be difficult to layer and fix. Pastel is immediate and, potentially, evanescent. The word conjures up not just the chalky medium, but also velvety soft surfaces and delicate colors. Pastel might call to mind eighteenth-century portraits of rosy-cheeked aristocrats in powdered wigs; however, with the advent of new aniline dyes in the mid-nineteenth century the medium enjoyed a resurgence among avant-garde artists. Availability of new, bold colors encouraged experimentation. Commitment to the here and now, in all its fleeting qualities of weather, fashion, and expression fostered embrace of immediacy, tactility, and idiosyncrasy. Pastel was perfectly suited to these aims.

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Key among these innovators was Jean-François Millet. In 1875, Vincent van Gogh saw a display of pastels by Millet and was awestruck: “When I entered the room in Hôtel Drouot where they were exhibited, I felt something akin to: Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The citation of a passage from Exodus heightens the spirituality of his experience. Over twenty of the pastels van Gogh encountered that day are featured in this exhibition. Degas, who experimented boldly with the medium, using processes and fixatives that still elude explanation, continues to be considered as one of the great masters of pastel. In the exhibition, works from across three decades of his career highlight his inventiveness.

The fragility of powdery pastel and the light sensitivity of the paper on which it rests mean these works can only rarely be exhibited, making this exhibition an exceptional opportunity to see firsthand masterworks by some of the greatest artists of nineteenth-century France working in one of the most challenging mediums. The exhibition features Barbizon, Impressionist, and Symbolist works by artists such as Millet and other artists committed to rural France, such as Lhermitte; Degas and Pissarro, as well as their colleagues Monet and Manet; and the imaginative sheets of Odilon Redon.


Kathi Aguero will lead a workshop at the Shelf Life exhibit October 3, 10, 17, 24

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In addition to After That (Tiger Bark Press), Kathleen Aguero’s poetry collections include Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth(Cervena Barva Press), Daughter Of (Cedar Hill Books), The Real Weather (Hanging Loose), and Thirsty Day (Alice James Books). She has also co-edited three volumes of multi-cultural literature for the University of Georgia Press (A Gift of Tongues, An Ear to the Ground, and Daily Fare) and is consulting poetry editor of Solstice Literary Magazine. She is a winner of the 2012 Firman Houghton Award from the New England Poetry Club and a recipient of grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Elgin-Cox Foundation. She teaches the low-residency M.F.A. program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College and in Changing Lives through Literature, an alternative sentencing program. She also teaches Creative Writing for Caregivers Workshops in community and institutional settings.

Claes Oldenburg's Dutch Still Lifes

The exhibition will place into dialogue Oldenburg’s Shelf Life, fifteen mixed- media sculptures (2017), with Dutch still-life paintings from the combined collections of the MFA and Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, to explore the resonance of ideas across am span of more than three centuries.

Each of Oldenburg’s Shelf Life sculptures consists of a custom-made gray shelf upon which the artist has arranged a carefully choreographed still-life of hand-made objects that take their inspiration from a number of the artist’s most iconic exhibitions and works. Self-reflective, subversive, and humorous, each sculpture effectively re-contextualizes Oldenburg’s own career as an artist.

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Krysten Hill will lead a workshop at the Nutshells exhibit October 31, November 7, 14, 28

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Krysten Hill is an educator, writer, and performer who has showcased her poetry on stage at The Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Blacksmith House, Cantab Lounge, Merrimack College, U35 Reading Series, and many others. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Boston where she currently teaches. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in apt, Word Riot, The Baltimore Review, B O D Y, Muzzle, PANK, Winter Tangerine Review and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. Her chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, is now available through Aforementioned Productions.

Frances Glessner Lee: The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death  

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are a series of nineteen dollhouse-sized intricate dioramas created by Frances Glessner Lee (1878 – 1962). Lee, a pioneer in forensic science, made the dioramas in the 1940s for the training of forensic investigators. The detailed scenes proved effective tools for the training of Harvard’s legal medicine students until the department’s dissolution in 1967. At that point, the eighteen Nutshell Studies still owned by the Harvard Medical School were placed on long-term deposit at the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and they have remained in Baltimore, used as training tools, ever since until this year.

Following significant conservation work, this fall the dioramas were exhibited publicly for the first time in many decades at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. The exhibition examines the Nutshells subversive qualities as both craft and forensic science. Working closely with the Warren Anatomical Museum at the Harvard Medical School we plan to bring the Nutshells back to Boston for the first time in more than fifty years examining them within the context of both our contemporary and historic collections.

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