WILLIAMSTOWN — Counterculture, a new large-scale public artwork by mixed-media artist Rose B. Simpson, will be on view at Field Farm beginning June 18.
Commissioned as part of The Trustees of Reservations' Art & The Landscape public art series, Counterculture will be installed along the horizon line of a meadow at Field Farm that will be visible from nearby Sloan Road. The exhibit will consist of 12 figural sculptures honoring the transcendental nature of ancestral place — a spirit that has been holding vigil through patriarchy, capitalization, and colonization. These figures are a reminder of a force that perseveres.
The installation consists of 12 hollow, concrete-clay forms supported by steel-gauge wireframes that stand approximately 9 feet tall. The figures are covered with a dry concrete spray, adorned with ceramic and found objects, and include a steel-post stanchion rooted in the ground with cement.
“Rose is an extraordinarily talented artist with whom we’re partnering at a unique inflection point in this country’s history,” Jessica May, The Trustees’ managing director of art and exhibitions, said in a release. “We support Rose’s work as a thoughtful and respectful acknowledgment of the people whose stories tend to be marginalized or forgotten by history.”
Counterculture is Simpson’s first public art commission and largest project to date. Simpson, an indigenous artist from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, descends from a tribe famous for ceramics made by women since the 6th century. Her work builds on this tradition while also addressing the emotional and existential impacts of our collective humanity. The figures look west across a post-apocalyptic vista, the vast homelands from which native peoples were forcibly removed to make way for settler colonialism. The artist positions the Counterculture figures as watchful presences, perpetually observing humanity and reminding us what the original stewards of these lands already knew — that we are all guests in the natural world. Like mothers looking over their children, the all-seeing, feminine-bodied forms implore us to go forward with respect and honor for all that came before.
“I hope this work serves as a reminder of our responsibility and the way that we’re always visitors here and should act as such,” Simpson said in the news release. “The pieces represent the many ancestors and inanimate things that are always watching and holding us accountable for the way that we move through the world.”
As part of the project, Simpson will fabricate and drape the figures with necklace-like adornments consisting of thousands of clay beads. She is engaged in conversation with representatives from the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of the Mohican Indians, on whose ancestral homelands Field Farm sits, to collaborate on related projects that acknowledge the tribe’s history on the site.
Simpson's work can currently be seen as part of the group show, "Ceramics in the Expanded Field," now on view at Mass MoCA.
Counterculture will be free to the public beginning June 18. Free 30-minute walk-and-talk tours will take place at noon on Saturdays from July 9 through Sept. 3. More information on parking and a complimentary shuttle bus to view the installation at Field Farm will be released at a later date.