Brandeis is located right outside of Boston, so not quite in the thick of it, but just close enough that students can conveniently explore its depths. There is quite a lot to explore—if you like eating out and don’t mind spending your weekly paycheck on fine dining. Something else to consider, however, is the thriving art culture in Boston and the various opportunities there are to see and experience this intriguing art. One of those artistic hubs free to Brandeis students is the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world.
If you’re one of those people who believes that if you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it all, then you’re really missing out on something fantastic: the far-reaching, expansive and stupefying world of art. The MFA, which has an outstanding collection of 450,000 pieces, can show only a small fraction of its artwork at one point, so it’s nearly impossible to have seen it all, even upon multiple visitations. Luckily, the MFA’s fast turnover rate allows its visitors to see as much of the collection as possible that the museum has acquired over the past 139 years.
The MFA is composed of five main artistic genres, which includes Art of the Ancient World; Art of Asia, Oceania and Africa; Art of Europe; Art of the Americas; and Contemporary Art. Photography, special exhibitions, musical instruments and jewelry are also on display, though these are subsets of the main areas and comprise a much smaller part of the museum. With the MFA’s more recent expansion in 2010, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the sea of art—centuries worth of expression—scattered over its 616,937 square feet.
As is characteristic of the MFA, the museum will soon unveil several exhibitions that speak to the wondrous diversity of art across mediums and time periods that have developed over the course of history. Currently on hand are some visually compelling exhibitions such as “Yours Sincerely, John S. Sargent” and “Crafted Objects in Flux.” The first exhibition, which can be viewed at the MFA until Nov. 15, incorporates letters, photographs and sketches to illuminate the mystery behind Sargent’s controversial portraits. “Crafted Objects in Flux,” on the other hand, utilizes the workmanship of over 30 up-and-coming artists, nationally and internationally based, as they explore the relative interaction between traditional and new-age craft. The results are visually stimulating on a whole other level; the artists investigate the craft’s dynamic relationship with its environment in an entirely original and unique way.
One of the MFA’s new exhibitions, “Classic Distinctions: Dutch Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer,” presents an altogether exciting opportunity to investigate the stratified socioeconomic groups within the Dutch Republic. These distinctions between high, middle and low classes can be evaluated through Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch and Gabriel Metsu’s work. Paying special attention to clothing, the way in which the person is depicted and the person’s surroundings, it is possible to form general conclusions about the time period in a new and refreshing way.
From Nov. 9 through Feb. 19, Marilyn Arsem, the recipient of the Maud Morgan Prize, will be present to showcase her performance art titled “Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time.” A Massachusetts native, she received the award based on her exceptional contributions to contemporary art. Arsem, who has performed around the world and was a faculty member at the MFA for almost three decades, is an incredibly experienced artist whose work has been influential in the arena of performance art.
During times of inconceivable stress, it can seem overwhelming or even impossible to get your life together. Taking a day trip to the MFA might seem like just another unnecessary activity, but college is an experience that doesn’t have to be entirely academic. Something to take note of is that looking at art and studying it in all its complexity may actually relieve stress.