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PEM exhibit explores marriage over three centuries

The Daily ItemSALEM ? The Peabody Essex Museum newest exhibit “Wedded Bliss, The Marriage of Art and Ceremony” is on display now through Sept. 14.The exhibit explored weddings as a source of artistic inspiration across cultures, lifestyles and three centuries.No exhibition has ever before taken this connective and comparative approach, with 130 paintings, sculptures, photographs, decorative objects and multimedia from the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific.It highlights the complex beliefs and emotions surrounding the matrimonial experience. From the 18th century to the present, these works reveal the diversity of creative response to weddings, as well as changing attitudes and customs over time.Conceived in five thematic sections, the exhibit carries the spectator on a journey from the earliest sparks of attraction through remembrance of the wedding ceremony after many years of marriage.The first section, “Wedding in White,” highlights wedding gowns as an art form. The historical roots of the white wedding tradition are addressed here, exploring symbolism, conformity and resistance to it. Dresses by contemporary and historical designers including Priscilla of Boston, exemplify the Euro-American wedding ideal, while others dismantle it. Lesley Dill’s sculpture, Dada Poem Wedding Dress, a paper wedding gown inscribed with a poem by Emily Dickinson, was worn originally as performance art at an AIDS benefit, an iconic wedding symbol drawing attention to issues in contemporary life.”Artful Negotiations” documents the early stages of a romantic relationship and the agreement to wed, and includes Winslow Homer’s Rustic Courtship, a depiction of the uncertainty of courtship and unrequited love in the 1870s. Also included are John Clevely, Sr.’s monumental 1762 painting of Queen Charlotte’s arrival for her marriage to King George III, and 19th-century spade-blade currency shown as a symbol of bride price in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They may not at first glance seem to have much in common with each other, yet suggest marriage negotiation and arrangement, rather than a romantic union.”Color and Symbolism in Wedding Attire” presents alternatives to the white wedding, with selected examples of handcrafted textiles from around the world, and America’s past. International wedding films put the garments in cultural context.”Art and Ceremony” features the use of art both in marriage ceremonies and as a means of creating ritual space. The art quilt, Shekhinah by Ricky Tims, is a full-size wedding chupa or canopy enabling visitors to enter an area uplifted from the everyday to the extraordinary, at the ready for a wedding ceremony.The final portion of the exhibit is appropriately entitled “Remembrance.” It features art commemorating the wedding and marking the passage of time. An especially poignant example is a gold, enamel and diamond bracelet by Tiffany & Co., given as an anniversary gift from a Civil War general to his wife. The bracelet is composed of hourglasses inscribed with each battle he fought, symbolizing the long hours of separation from his wife during his military service.As part of the exhibit, museum visitors will be invited to submit images documenting their thoughts, emotions and experiences about their own weddings, a selection of which will be included in a multimedia gallery installation.The Peabody Essex Museum presents art and culture from New England and around the world. The Museum campus features numerous parks, period gardens and 24 historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. It is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission, which includes access to “Wedded Bliss, The Marriage of Art and Ceremony”, is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and $11 for students.

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