The weekend was sunny but chilly with high, gusty winds. So as we weren't planning to walk around town this weekend, it seemed a good day for a drive up to Salem to the Peabody Essex Museum. The PEM, which has its origins in the "curiosities" collected and brought home by sea captains, specializes in art from Asia, Oceana, India, and North America.Their current featured exhibit is Shapeshifting, with Native American art from across the country and from 200 BC to the present. I found myself "placing" each piece geographically as well as in time. Since the plaques stated the tribe/nation, but not region, you mostly had to have heard of the tribe to know its location. I recognized all of the beautiful southwest work (mostly Hopi and Navaho) from my visits to New Mexico, the local tribe names from New England, and a few others. I'm not as familiar with the Pacific northwest, but you couldn't miss the giant totem pole from that region. I knew they were big, but it's a different thing to stand next to one, dwarfed by it, and see the gorgeous carving.
Speaking of the northwest, I was thrilled to see Brian Jungen's "Cetology" installation at the exhibit. I first saw one of his astonishing "natural history" type (ie, hung from the ceiling) whale skeletons made from white plastic resin chairs installed at the contemporary art museum on a visit to Montreal in June of 2006 with a bunch of blogger friends. That exhibit in Montreal also had his wonderful aboriginal masks made from Nike footwear.
We left the PEM just before closing time, and it so happened that just next door at the charming, independent Salem Cinema, The Artist was playing in about 20 minutes. It was up for an Oscar last night and was predicted to win Best Picture (it did), so we couldn't pass it by. It was, as many have said, a lovely piece of froth to top off our day.