Whether for leisure, business, exploration, colonization, exploitation or plunder, humans have traveled the world for centuries and recorded their impressions in books and artworks. The Institute Library in New Haven is celebrating summer – peak time for vacation travel – with an exhibit that merges works of travel-related contemporary art with vintage books that tell tales about encounters with other worlds.
Martha Willette Lewis, curator of “Wish You Were Here,” emphasizes that not all of the classic books, or their writers, were well-intentioned. Charming titles like “Vagabonding at 50,” written in 1929 by two middle-aged women with wanderlust, and the fun “Which Way to Mecca, Jack” sit next to more sinister books about societies and people considered less evolved by these well-heeled, white travel writers.
The artworks, however, lavish love and respect on the foreign lands and people, as well as a concern for their future. The artists are Leila Daw of Branford, Roberta Friedman of Hamden, Rob Rocke and Ed Dionne of New Haven, Scott Schuldt of Milford, Lisa Seidenberg of Westport, as well as Fran Antmann, David Guy, James Lancel McElhinny, Isabella Mellado, Maryann Ott and Abigail Reynolds.
Antmann’s black-and-white photos of Mayan healers show a way of life that may be on the way out, as their world is diminished by climate change and modernization. Mellado’s gif postcards from Puerto Rico show a lovely country menaced by global warming. Rocke’s landscapes, of Belize and Maine, show pretty natural environments with human “intervention” in the form of a cell tower and a long pipe.
Ott’s artworks are charming and personal. An “eclipse chaser,” Ott travels in search of eclipses, and creates hand-painted and -written and collaged diaries of the lands where they happen: Niger, Egypt, Peru, Iceland, the Faroe Islands. Friedman’s accordion-folded travel diaries – from Vietnam, South Africa, Cambodia, India, Greece, China, Finland — are similar but emphasize fun rather than a mission.
Reynolds’ video, taken along the Silk Road, chronicles libraries that were destroyed by governments seeking to consolidate power and control of information. Seidenberg’s video is more wistful and nostalgic. Her “Letter from mom” takes off from a letter the artist found, and compiles YouTube videos of women on vacation to create kindhearted homage to loved ones both home and away.
WISH YOU WERE HERE: JOURNALS, JOURNEYS AND EXPEDITIONS is at The Institute Library, 847 Chapel St. in New Haven, until Aug. 17. institutelibrary.org.
On Other Walls
Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, part of the Springfield Museums complex at 21 Edwards St. in Springfield, presents “Beyond Function: Contemporary Ceramics from the Donald Clark Collection,” until Sept. 2. springfieldmuseums.org.
“Theory,” an exhibit of photography, sculpture, painting and installation by Aaron M. Flynn, Sydney Morris, Tara Nugent, Nicole Haynes, Erika Santos and Keri Halloran, is at Five Points Annex Gallery, 17 Water St. in Torrington, until July 9. fivepointsgallery.org/annex.
City Gallery, 994 State St. in New Haven, presents “City Paper,” an exhibit of work by William Frucht, Mary Lesser and Michael Zack, from June 28 to July 29. An opening reception is July 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. city-gallery.org
The 58th anniversary exhibit, featuring work by more than 100 artists, is at Gallery on the Green, on the town green in Canton, from June 29 to Aug. 5. The opening reception is June 30 from 6 to 9 p.m. galleryonthegreen.org.