This week, we traveled to Gadsby’s Tavern Museum in Alexandria, Virginia to talk with Lauren Frances Adams and Stewart Watson, artists and colleagues at the Maryland Institute College of Arts, about their art installation Centennial of the Everyday, which is currently on display in the museum.
While Gadsby’s Tavern is well-known for its connection to the “founding fathers,” Lauren and Stewart’s installation highlights the contributions of women, enslaved peoples, and other unnamed citizens to the important events that occurred in this space. Their artwork complicates simple narratives about what America was and what it is, inviting visitors to consider spaces as archives and to remember the many "strangers" in the periphery of historical texts.
To create this three-part installation, the artists conducted extensive research and created works in a variety of media, including furniture, stoneware and textiles, which are inserted around other historical exhibits on display in the museum. To create "A Particular Provenance" Lauren and Stewart collaborated with individuals connected to the history of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, either through genealogical or organizational history. The installation includes furniture donated by these individuals -- Stephen Hammond, Tracy Loughlin, Laurie Sisson, Char McCargo Bah, Joan Sereysky Scarsdale, DeAnne Bryant, and Lex Powers -- and modified by the artists to reflect the owner’s connection to either John Gadsby, the tavern, or the museum. Lauren and Stewart describe how their collaboration with others gave them permission to open up the usually tight narrative around the tavern and its history to investigate more of it’s complexities and difficulties.
"Not on View," a textile installation on a historic canopy bed in the museum’s East Bedchamber reflecting on the history of the Female Stranger, a local legend about a gravely ill woman who arrived at the hotel under mysterious circumstances in 1816 and passed away shortly after her arrival. The canopy is made out of custom-printed textiles and features silhouettes of anonymous women found in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A nearby stone vessel houses a speaker which plays an audio recording of a woman crying. The vessel bears an inscription from Alexander Pope’s “Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady”: “Grieve for an hour, perhaps, then mourn a year.” The artists see these pieces as a testament to all of the unnamed people who have traversed this historical space and, more broadly, to all of the “strangers” who are part of American history, but have been forgotten or overlooked.
We would like to thank Stewart, Lauren, everyone at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and at Area 405 for hosting us in Alexandria, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland. We hope that you will visit Gadsby’s Tavern Museum where the installation will be on display until September 3, 2017.
From Instagram: #centennialoftheeveryday