Leaving the River, An Installation by Evelyn Berde
Presented by The West End Museum
September 1 - October 8, 2011
Boston, MA—On September 1, 2011, the West End Museum will premiere a new art show featuring works of Boston artist Evelyn Berde. “Leaving the River” is a multi-media art installation which explores the impact the government-ordered condemnation and destruction of Boston's thriving West End neighborhood in the late 1950's and early 1960's had on its residents, including Berde's family, and, ultimately, on the artist's life and artistic development. Berde's works focus on three overlapping events from her childhood: her family’s forced eviction from the neighborhood as part of Boston’s urban renewal; the tragic drowning of her brother in the Charles River; and her medical battle with congenital scoliosis. Berde’s art reflects how, as a young girl, she witnessed the tragedies of death and disability that befell her family and herself. The exhibit uses painting, sculpture, collage, period furniture and clothing, sounds, and other media to recreate the life and death of the neighborhood, and to document how Berde came to terms with its destruction at the same time she confronted the death of her 9 year-old brother. As her family sought comfort in the Church, Berde used art as a therapeutic tool and a path to healing. Among the works included in “Leaving the River” are unconventional renderings of familiar religious images. The installation captures the reminiscences of surviving West End residents who describe the pain of watching the wrecking ball destroy the neighborhood—and the sense of home and family they lost. “Leaving the River” interposes these sad reminiscences with other, happier ones through photographs and works of art documenting the stark contrast between the vibrancy of the West End of the 1950's and the desolation and rubble that remained after it was bulldozed to the ground.