Installation view of Abby Donovan: THE COLORS ARE LIKE WORDS THAT ARE NOT WORDS BUT COLORS at the Shirley Fiterman Art Center
When I was growing up in Boston, my parents often took me to the Museum of Science and the Museum of Fine Arts. After a few minutes of walking around the exhibition Abby Donovan: THE COLORS ARE LIKE WORDS THAT ARE NOT WORDS BUT COLORS at the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, organized by Lisa Panzera with assistance from Lilly McEachern, I felt the work could be shown in both institutions. At one point I even felt that Donovan’s sculptures, made of colored sheet glass and lead solder, and her projection devices (made with Tom Hughes), would not look out of place in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, which is devoted to preserving artist-built environments by self-taught and vernacular artists, and they could easily be shown alongside Emery Blagdon’s Healing Machines (1956–86). Both artists seem interested in capturing something we cannot see or name.
I cannot think of another artist whose work can sit comfortably in these three very different museums. Donovan does more than question the boundaries dividing aesthetic and scientific experience into separate categories; she reminds us that divided thinking leads to sequestered conclusions.