Curator Jen Mergel helps bring the work of a legendary artist to Frederick Law Olmsted’s renowned Emerald Necklace
This Summer and fall, those enjoying the Emerald Necklace—Boston’s largest park system, designed by the famous landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted—may be surprised by a sudden fog bank or a mysterious, low-hanging cloud. No, it’s not the New England weather. These ghostly apparitions are actually man-made, water-vapor artworks by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya, presented as part of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s 20th anniversary celebration.
Boston native Jen Mergel (pictured above, right, with Nakaya) is the curator of Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace (through October 31). “Olmsted himself was…an artist. Everything that he composed—all of the earth he moved and all of the water he shaped—is like a big, immersive installation,” Mergel explains. “I was asked if I knew of artists who could present works that wouldn’t detract or distract from Olmsted’s vision of the parks. It was really [Nakaya] who kept coming back as the best choice.” All of the works are newly commissioned for the Emerald Necklace, responding to five different sites: The Fens, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park.
This is Nakaya’s first exhibition in Boston, as well as the first time that many of her fog sculptures are on view simultaneously, allowing visitors to experience “a proper survey of her art” in a single day. Additionally, Fog x FLO is a first for Mergel, an experienced curator who has worked with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary Art. “I have never done a five-mile-long, free outdoor exhibition before. It’s amazing to me to think that hundreds of thousands of people will be able to come and experience world-class contemporary art and rediscover Olmsted’s parks in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”
A sense of rediscovery is important for Mergel, who grew up in Dorchester near Franklin Park, and remembers visiting the Arnold Arboretum for the annual Lilac Sunday events. Working on Fog x FLO has inspired Mergel to learn more about the parks and to encourage fellow Bostonians and visitors to explore them. “I really want to re-imprint on Bostonians and people’s cognitive maps of Boston that the Emerald Necklace is this vital connector,” Mergel says. “This is really a gift for Boston.”
Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace
Various locations on the Emerald Necklace through October 31, emeraldnecklace.org/20th