Amy Zanders- When The Bough Breaks (National Gallery of Bermuda)

This summer I spent a blissful week on the pink sands of Bermuda. One of my favorite excursions was to see the National Gallery of Bermuda. The atmosphere of the museum is much more intimate than any other I have visited- the plaques beside each work provide detailed, sometimes lengthy, descriptions of each artist’s inspirations. These in-depth anecdotes made the museum feel less “posh” than the fancy museums in NYC and Boston, but more comfortable. Walking through the museum, I felt a deeper connection to each work. The plaques removed the boundary between curator and viewer by allowing the voice of the artist to come through. I would love to see this style adopted in museums in the United States. Simply providing a title, medium, date, and artist can leave a viewer completely baffled, and sometimes intimidated. (Unless the artist would LIKE to leave his or her viewers confused… in which case, that is a whole different blog post!!) Here is the National Gallery of Bermuda!

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Throughout the week, I’ll be posting about the beautiful works of art I saw during my day at the museum! The first is entitled “When The Bough Breaks,” by Amy Zanders. From the plaque on the wall, I gathered that “When The Bough Breaks” is a reflection of the abuse and poverty that occur on Zander’s home island due to social and economic problems. Specifically, Zanders pinpoints the aftermath of child abuse, and the psychological breaking point of those suffering from a childhood of trauma. Her use of brightly colored yarn, beads, and paint creates a scene that is culturally Bermudian. Beneath the surface of gorgeous colors and ever-changing light, there are socioeconomic issues and children being robbed of their childhoods.

This is what “When The Bough Breaks” looks like from the front:

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The colorful circles knitted around one another reinforce a sense of circularity, a fear that the pattern of economic problems and abuse will keep winding. The bright colors of the yarn, like the beautiful pink sands, and the sapphire-blue waters, cannot hide that. Zanders is determined to bring these truths to the surface. She does so by keeping them just below.

Here are several close-ups of the ground level of this work:

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Upon closer inspection, one can see that the work is littered with painted dolls covered in glitter, beads, and yarn. They are imprisoned by the beauty covering them, and are perched on vibrant colors and textures. The doll in the bottom picture lies on her back, her hair askew, her legs distorted, projecting pain. All around her is the circle motif of knitted discs, trapping her in a vicious cycle of poverty and abuse.

After viewing this work, I walked around the entire gallery, but came back to this one to look even closer. There is something about it that is so mesmerizing. Purely aesthetically, it is both magnificent and grotesque, pretty and uncanny. Upon realizing the true meaning behind its construction, I became nauseated. Is this not the desired effect of work for social change? What Zanders has accomplished is a remarkable feat: the creation of art for social justice that draws the viewer in for aesthetic reasons, then reprimands the viewer for oohing and ahhing over a topic as painful as child abuse.

I am a devout fan of more traditional art, but this past summer I plunged into the pool of contemporary art. Works such as “When The Bough Breaks” are important and current, worthy of contemplation and discussion. I look forward to discovering more art for social change in the Boston area. However, if you are ever in Bermuda, be sure to check out the National Gallery! I’ll be showing you even MORE reasons why later this week. Till then…

xoxo, Chloe ❤

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