We’ve always looked to the Isabella Gardner Museum as one of Boston’s prime oasis spots. There’s the courtyard itself with the flowers and the four stories and the sense of tranquility. There’s the art and scultpure, the music programs, an old-world sense of what was right about a century ago. But the Gardner does not exist in the past and it has artist-in-residence programs where the artist in question interacts with what is, or has been, in the museum. This is where Italian artist Stefano Arienti comes from. His exhibit, "The Asian Show," consists of drawings inspired by archival photographs of a basement room Isabella kept for herself many many years ago. It was stuffed with a plethora of Asian artifacts that she collected. Curator Pieranna Cavalchini says Arienti found it a perfect environmnent to recapture "whta no longer exists … using a form of drawing that uses technology. An installationa bout time, memory and discovery. "The Asian Shore," which is up through Oct. 14, takes place in a small room, where Arienti has hung 95 drawings he’s made from the now discarded/lost artifacts. He’s dyed rugs black and red to lie on the floor. (Cavalchini says visitors are encouraged to go shoeless, to sit and meditate and "have a senusal experience." We did so at the opening a while back, and yes, there’s something very Zen-like about the experience. Arienti called doing this "a special privilege, (an opportunity) to travel in time, an inspiration to get different ideas of art and culture. This collection has a distinct taste and strong personality." People can interact "with something from a different time, that’s really not that far apart."
Gardner was an Episcopalean, but had an interest in all religions. Here, she was struck by Buddhism, and the Buddha is well-represented by Arienti. But he is not a Buddhist. "My interest is in different religions," he told us. He didn’t have a religious experience dying the rugs or creating the drawings. "It’s a slow process," he said, "with the wood-burning. The process is part of the cathartic process." (The exhibit also includes 17th century Japanese doors which reside in the museum, but their beautiful back sides, painted with bamboo, are rarely shown.) The Gardner is open Tues-Sun. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: $12. Of note: You can buy a season pass for $55, which also allows you to special "members" events like the viewing/wine and cheese affair that followed the press showing. They have at least four of these a year. Good deal.
280 The Fenway, 617-566-7653 www.gardnermuseum.org