2 Upper Valley Artists, and 2 Other Connections to Salem You Didn’t Know You Had
Down to the Bone is an inventive and sobering exhibition at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA that pairs the work of two Upper Valley artists: New Yorker cartoonist (and Vermont’s former Cartoonist Laureate) Edward Koren and photographer Stephen Gorman. The idea for the show originated close to home, when Gorman and his wife attended an exhibition of Koren’s drawings at the Big Town Gallery in Rochester, Vermont and sensed a kinship. Both artists are concerned with the immediate and long-lasting effects of the global climate crisis and the relationship of humans to nature. Koren’s shaggy imagined creatures and Gorman’s Alaskan polar bears vainly searching for food seem bewildered and questioning. Some exhibitions fade from memory after seeing them. This one does not. I am not the first viewer to comment on the power of “the gaze” of these soulful creatures who are among those whom Gorman calls “climate refugees.” For more information and photos, check out this review by Rob Gurwitt earlier this spring for Seven Days. The exhibition runs through February 5, 2023.
The Peabody-Essex describes itself as among the oldest continuously operating museums in the country. Continuing in the climate change theme, it also offers an outdoor installation of Konstantin Dimopoulos’ The Blue Trees (below), which had recently appeared at the Currier Museum in Manchester NH. (No harm to the trees.)
Bewitched. Salem is awash in the history of witchcraft; it’s fair to say that much of its tourism appears to be centered around it. If you are of a certain age, you will remember Bewitched, a 1960s sit-com starring Elizabeth Montgomery as a modern day witch. It turns out that several episodes were filmed in Salem, and in particular, in the Hawthorne Hotel, a venerable institution that displays its connection to the television show with a small exhibition of memorabilia just off the main lobby. (Incidentally, the Hawthorne is reputed to be among the most haunted of old hotels. Despite the fact that I stayed a few doors down from one of the most haunted rooms, alas, nothing.)
A statue of Montgomery in her role as Samantha sits in a small park in downtown Salem. It’s controversial, and was vandalized with red paint as recently as June, 2022. Some residents and others find the tribute to a fictional witch who played a role for laughs to be an affront to the persecution and execution of real women during the infamous Salem witch trials.
Ever played Monopoly? Of course you have. The board game you played as a child was likely fabricated in Salem. Parker Brothers, who bought the rights to an early prototype of the game, headquartered itself in Salem for over a century beginning on the current site of the aforementioned Hawthorne Hotel.
Fun fact from the highly recommended trolley tour (could not substantiate this in my own research, but would our trolley guide make this up?): During very hard times for the company in the midst of the Great Depression, Parker Brothers paid its employees in Monopoly money. Local merchants accepted the invented currency as cash. When Parker Brothers got back on its feet, it redeemed all of the circulating Monopoly bills for real money.
Accordingly to the New England Historical Society: “The company would go on to sell iconic games such as Clue, Sorry!, Risk, Trivial Pursuit and Ouija, and it would introduce the Nerf ball. It would remain family-owned until 1968, when it was sold to General Mills. After a series of mergers, the Salem plant on Bridge Street closed in 1991.”
(Photo, top, Stephen Gorman, Solastalgia, 2017, pigment print, courtesy of the artist and Peabody-Essex Museum; Blue Tree photo by Susan B. Apel)
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Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.