Rachel Perry Welty sees art where many of us see annoying little things to be thrown away or deleted: the funny-shaped plastic tabs cleverly invented to close the bag around a loaf of bread; the identifying stickers found on most fruit; answering-machine messages left at wrong numbers. Welty is one of seven artists selected for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ prestigious Traveling Scholarships in 2004, and work by all seven is on view in “SMFA Traveling Scholars,” which opens at the Museum of Fine Arts on February 18. Her installation Karaoke Wrong Number may not be exactly what 19th-century Museum School patrons had in mind when they started raising money to send young artists on æsthetically uplifting journeys (mostly to Paris, Rome, or Florence), but the variety of ways in which these artists chose to use their awards reflects the contemporary feeling that inspiration may be found thousands of miles away or in the next room.
This year’s “Traveling Scholars” also includes work by Cliff Evans, who spent three months in New Orleans in advance of Hurricane Katrina’s onslaught working on a video featuring critical images of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Helen Kim, who spent two consecutive summers in her native Korea having lunch with her mom and recording information gleaned about her family history on napkins and take-out containers, and Hannah Barrett, Bryce Kauffman, Naoko Matsumoto, and Lori A. Paradise. Across the way at the Museum School, the juried “Student Annual Exhibition” opens on February 17 with an overview of work by current students including recipients of prizes in the area of painting and photography.
Time travel is also on the itinerary at the MFA, as “Light My Fire: Rock Posters from the Summer of Love” opens on February 13 with psychedelic posters from San Francisco, all dated 1966 and 1967, and all recently donated to the MFA. Experience this mind-altering, sexually liberating, socially upheaving, and generally wild and woolly cultural moment through two dozen posters for venues like the Fillmore Auditorium and rock bands like the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin’s Big Brother & the Holding Company.
Chaotic-looking swirls of dervishes, animals, and insects on marbled paper might look at home on a poster for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but in fact it’s a 17th-century drawing from Iran that’s part of “The Tablet and the Pen,” which opens at Harvard’s Sackler Museum on February 18. The show features 28 drawings made in Turkey, Iran, and India, mostly from the 15th through the 18th century. Organized by two doctoral candidates in the history of art and architecture at Harvard, Ladan Akbarnia and Chanchal Dadlani, it takes a focused look at the development of the medium of drawing in the eastern Islamic lands.
“SMFA Traveling Scholars” and “Light My Fire” @ Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | Feb 18–April 12 (“Traveling Scholars”) and Feb 13–Aug 13 (“Light My Fire”) | 617.267.9300 or www.mfa.org | “Student Annual Exhibition” @ School of the Museum of Fine Arts, 230 the Fenway, Boston | Feb 17–March 11 | 617.267.6100 or www.smfa.edu | “The Tablet and the Pen” @ Harvard’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 32 Quincy St, Cambridge | Feb 18–July 23 | 617.495.9400 or www.artmuseums.harvard.edu