Measure

An exhibition by Anna Von Mertens

November 9, 2018–January 19, 2019

Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery
Hours: Noon–5 PM, Monday–Saturday
Byerly Hall, 8 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Opening discussion: November 8, 2018, at 5 PM in the Knafel Center
Reception to follow, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery

  The stars fading from view on the morning of Henrietta Leavitt’s birth, July 4, 1868, Lancaster, Massachusetts ;  The stars returning into view on the evening of Henrietta Leavitt’s death, December 12, 1921, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2018 , hand-stitched cotton, 54 x 100 in. (each), stitch detail of left panel Image courtesy of Anna Von Mertens

The stars fading from view on the morning of Henrietta Leavitt’s birth, July 4, 1868, Lancaster, Massachusetts; The stars returning into view on the evening of Henrietta Leavitt’s death, December 12, 1921, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2018, hand-stitched cotton, 54 x 100 in. (each),
stitch detail of left panel
Image courtesy of Anna Von Mertens

Anna Von Mertens uses the structures of quilting and drawing to examine the frontiers of human understanding. In this exhibition commissioned for the Radcliffe Institute, Von Mertens explores the life and work of Henrietta Leavitt, one of the women “computers” hired a century ago to study glass-plate astronomical photographs at the Harvard College Observatory. Leavitt searched for patterns among these glassy stars, and her findings provided a unit of measurement for galactic distances and led to our current understanding of the shape of the cosmos. Von Mertens’s meticulous stitches and intricate graphite marks reimagine Leavitt’s patient work, exploring the potency of single, measured actions as units of understanding.

Anna Von Mertens received her MFA from the California College of the Arts and her BA from Brown University. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States, including at Ballroom Marfa, the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, the deCordova Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the RISD Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She is the recipient of a 2010 United States Artist fellowship in the visual arts and a 2007 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award.

Exhibition organized by Jennifer L. Roberts, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts, Radcliffe Institute, and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Measure Gallery Series

In this series of events held in the gallery, Harvard students, faculty, and staff members from across the disciplinary spectrum respond to Anna Von Mertens’s work.

  • Astronomical Glass Plates Open House
    November 14, noon, and December 10, 3:30 PM
    Display of and Q and A about the glass plates that Henrietta Leavitt used to study and measure celestial objects
    Please register and join us.

  • VISION LAB: A Performative Conversation on “Frontiers of Human Understanding”
    November 15, 3:30 PM
    A creative and performative discussion of spiritual, intellectual, artistic, and environmental possibilities inspired by the exhibition
    Please register and join us.

  • The Cloths of Heaven: Live Performance by the Harvard College Opera
    November 16, 3:30 PM, and December 6, 3:30 PM
    Harvard College Opera celebrates astronomical journeys, celestial joy, and out-of-this-world inspiration in a recital of art songs, arias, and world-premiere compositions.
    Please register and join us.

  • Stairway to Heaven: Henrietta Leavitt and the Cosmic Distance Ladder
    November 27, 3:30 PM
    The science and the controversies behind the exhibition’s exploration of cosmic distance with the astrophysicist João Alves RI ’19 and Alyssa Goodman, faculty codirector of the science program
    Please register and join us.

  • Live Performance: Preparatory Musical Readings of the Hanging Quilts of Measure
    November 28, noon
    Max Murray (tuba) and Adi Snir (saxophone, trumpophone) perform the art of the exhibition as musical compositions.
    Please register and join us.

  • The Space Between: A Live Performance by the Harvard Ballet Company
    November 29, 3:30 PM, and December 7, 3:30 PM
    The Harvard Ballet Company offers an improvisational dance installation inspired by the exhibition.
    Please register and join us.

  • Kilo Girl Hours at the Harvard Observatory
    November 30, 3:30 PM
    Discussion of the scientific and historical value of the female computers’ notations on the astronomical glass plates
    Please register and join us.

  • Philosophical Threads: Discussion on Aesthetics
    December 3, 3:30 PM
    A discussion of the roles of aesthetics in science and mathematics with Ned Hall, Samantha Matherne, and David Edwards
    Please register and join us.

  • Visible and Invisible Lines: Quilts and Art
    December 5, noon
    An exploration of the functional, moral, and aesthetic value of the stitch in American quilt making with Felicity Lufkin, lecturer on folklore and mythology at Harvard University
    Please register and join us.

Press Release:

Radcliffe Institute at Harvard Presents an Exhibition and Publication by Anna Von Mertens That Stitch Together Past and Present, Science and Art