Oh, Canada (a trip to MASS MoCA + 10 reasons to look at art)

On Saturday, David and I drove to MASS MoCA in North Adams to see new art. Housed in a former mill building, the museum is known for showcasing large installations that are often innovative and edgy.


Several shows were on display (including Invisible Cities, The Cartographer’s Conundrum, Sol LeWitt’s Retrospective), the “Oh, Canada” exhibit captivated my attention.

Oh (art at Mass MoCA)

Curated by Denise Markonish, the show included 62 artists with over 120 works on display. Works ranged in size and scale from architectural to cinematic, including BGL’s rusted security gate ride outside the museum’s front doors, Diane Landry’s sand bottles and lights, Charles Stankievech’s dreamy purple cloud, and Michael Snow’s billowing curtain film. These dreamlike narratives that break through conventional romantic imagery of vast Canadian landscapes were my favorite pieces.

still of Diane Landry's Knight of Infinite Resignation
Diane Landry’s “Knight of Infinite Resignation”

The show was exciting like a summer carnival, flashing lights, rickety ride, glowing spider woman, flower appliqued bear. It brought together a diverse collection of art based on craft, concept, and wit. While there, I thought about the importance of looking at art.


Of course, I’m biased. Art runs in my family and the subject has always been of interest to me. Beyond this, why should anyone care?

couple looking at art

10 reasons to look at art:

1. Art rocks, hop on BGL’s ride if you don’t believe me.

2. Art makes the invisible visible, like magic.

from Loveland by Charles Stankievech
Charles Stankievech’s “Loveland”

3. Art moves you to think differently, regardless of whether you like the art or not.

paper city

4. Art teaches you new skills, like how to put together a killer model mountain from wood, plaster, and other scraps lying around your garage, grow sourdough, work out your secret grudges.

Graeme Patterson's The Mountain (at MASS MoCA)
Graeme Patterson’s “The Mountain”

5. Art shows you what it means to be alive.

6. Art creates and destroys meaning.


7. Art develops new ways to talk about the same old shit.

soap art

8. Art helps us appreciate small moments, like watching a curtain slap against the window, engaging in a petty argument, or finding new uses for soap (and yes, I’m specifically referring to pieces in the “show).

man watches the argument

9. Art acts as a secret weapon against oppressive forces.

10. Art starts a conversation (this one could come in handy at your next work party, date, etc…).

from the cartographer's conundrum

What do you think? Do you have anything to add to the list?


  1. Amy says

    Great post, thanks for the tip. Did you bring Luke? They have a “free admission” day coming up on the 31st, and we’re debating going up there with Katie.

    Thank you

    • ArtandLemons says

      Amy, Thanks. No, Luke didn’t go this time. I think he would have liked the ride and running through the larger galleries. He probably would have lost interest after that. Thanks for the free day heads up, not sure if we can make it then. Let’s email.

  2. says

    I enjoy looking at art but I enjoy creating art even more. (I always assumed most artists feel that way.) Recently my almost 6 year old was in tears because she wanted to figure out how to sell her art work. My heart ached a little bit. Oh what a long road she has ahead of her with that one simple question!
    Nice post.

    • ArtandLemons says

      Dawn, Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean. Looking at art has always widened my view and context of my own work, but it can’t replace the act of making it. It sounds like you have a budding artist on your hands with the right ideas in mind, making and selling work. While the road may be difficult, it’s full of possibilities. I wonder what she’ll come up with…

  3. says

    I love your ideas here, and if I might be so bold as to add, 11. Art brings happiness. Or maybe even sadness, depending on ones point of view, which will ultimately lead back to happiness.

    • ArtandLemons says

      IdaBaker, Yes, be bold! I love #11—Happiness & Sadness. When art gets at the truth in life, I agree, it absolutely evokes both. Thanks for playing along!

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