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Poetry, art meet at Jason Russell House

Cecily Miller, a consultant about public art in Arlington provided this news summary about a new art installation at a historic spot in town:

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Have you seen the large overcoat or delicate pleated robes wrapped around trees along Mass. Ave.? For an outdoor exhibition titled Arboreal Attire, Boston artist Leslie Wilcox has installed a series of sculptural garments on six trees surrounding the Jason Russell House.

The Arlington Historical Society and the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture collaborated to bring this intriguing work to a prominent and evocative site – a family residence constructed in the 1740s near what is now Arlington Center.

Birmingham explains

Arlington Historical Society member Doris Birmingham explains how the exhibition helps the society fulfill one of its goals: bringing history to life for the community and out of town visitors alike.

“The casual sidewalk stroller may be a little taken aback at seeing the trunks of several grand old maples on the grounds encased in larger than life-size wire mesh costumes, for example, an evening gown, an overcoat and top hat; even a Japanese kimono,” she said.

“Transparent, clinging to their tree trunks but shimmering slightly in the wind, they are mysterious presences, possibly suggesting the ghosts of prior residents of the house and their neighbors.”

Birmingham sees a story unfolding in the gathering of characters that Wilcox has created:

“The group of four nearest Mass. Ave. might be engaged in conversation at an elegant lawn party; the two across the lawn, latecomers to the party, approach from Jason Street, eager to join in.”

Birmingham hopes viewers will see a connection with the Jason Russell House collections: “dressed to the nines, evoking the fashions of days long gone, these personages remind us of Arlington’s past, and maybe even hint at treasures in the historical clothing collections preserved in the Society’s museum.”

Brown offers poem

In November, as the installation progressed, ACAC curator Miller invited Jessie Brown, an Arlington poet and Russell House neighbor, to celebrate the interaction of Wilcox’s sculpture with the landscape and history of the house, an important landmark at the beginning of the American Revolution.

The result is “Make Yourself at Home,” a poem that invites us to enter into the human and natural histories whose subtle energies surround us. Below is an excerpt. Learn more and read the entire poem >> 

Once forest, once orchard, now field,

this thin grass takes your steps.

How many hoofprints has it held?

How many moccasins? Or even trees— 

see how one leans toward you, graceful in pleated sleeves;

one wears snow like wings on a kimono;

one stands silent, blackclad, hat in hand. 

Old quince, maple, oak ...   

This news summary explaining an art installation, which contains opinion, was published Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020.

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