Fall is a season for seeing the familiar with new eyes. At DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum in Lincoln, this means exploring the art of the camera, as “A Season of Photography” highlights three photographic exhibits – all challenging common ideas, and taking the viewer to uncommon places and perceptions.

Fall is a season for seeing the familiar with new eyes.


At DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum in Lincoln, this means exploring the art of the camera, as “A Season of Photography” highlights three photographic exhibits – all challenging common ideas, and taking the viewer to uncommon places and perceptions.


 Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc


Joyce and Edward Linde Gallery through Jan. 3


The romance of the Orientalists – 19th and early 20th century European and American artists and writers with a fanciful view of life in the Middle East – meets a modern view of women, men, and culture in “Les Femmes du Maroc,” interpretive photos by Moroccan-born photographer Lalla Essaydi.


The photos, 17 of which are on view at DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, take their nod from paintings of the era, which are represented side by side with the photos.


The contrast is immediate and arresting. The paintings are sensual and sometimes even bordering on lurid, and the women in them always in the act of making themselves alluring for husbands or in the case of slaves, masters -- even if these men are not in plain sight.


The paintings are in most cases, certainly based on fantasy. They commonly depict a scene from the harem, the private family quarters where men who were not relatives are forbidden to go, making it a foregone conclusion that most western male tourists weren’t allowed in at all.


In contrast, Essaydi’s models, posed to imitate the paintings, appear caught in their own thoughts and feelings, whether about themselves, each other, their children, or the men in their lives.


They are covered in henna, a decorative pigment used as adornment, but also Arabic calligraphy, expressing a multitude of thoughts and expressions even to a viewer who cannot read the script.


This exhibit of 17 photos from Essaydi’s series brings the artist full circle. Essaydi studied at the museum’s art school, where she began a friendship and professional partnership with Nick Capasso, a senior curator.


“This was an opportunity for them to finally realize a project together,” said Nina Bozicnik, co-curatorial fellow. “It just became a really good time because, our institution is moving into a new direction of showing more internationally recognized artists.”


Essaydi “is definitely challenging the reality constructed by these painters, and the ideas propagated through their work,” Bozicnik said. “She is challenging those stereotypes about what women’s roles are, and what history has prescribed.”


In addition, Essaydi is quietly confronting perceptions within the Middle Eastern and Islamic culture itself.


“They are covered in henna, which is a woman’s art, but also calligraphy, which traditionally is men’s art to transcribe religious texts,” Bozicnik said. “So it is combining a history of the western male gaze, but also the relationship of men and women and society in general.”


Some exhibit visitors saw messages between the lines, so to speak.


Brittani Martino, a student at Emmanuel College, attended the exhibit with fellow members of her art class on a recent Saturday. She said, “It’s amazing, how she did that, with all the calligraphy. You can see the similarities in the [model’s] positions in the photos, and in the paintings.


“I feel like [the women] have something to say with their words, and that is why the words are written on them.”


 


Jules Aarons: In the Jewish Neighborhoods, 1946-76


Arcade Gallery, Photo Study Space, Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Media Space


Through Jan. 3


 


A couple at an impasse, after a quarrel.


A family around a dining room table, preparing for the Passover blessing.


A bird’s eye view of a Boston street car, snaking through a neighborhood that bears little resemblance to its present-day incarnation.


Photographer Jules Aarons captured these scenes and more in his travels throughout the world, documenting in images a past and present view of Jewish life in streets and cities near and far.


“In the Jewish Neighborhoods: 1946-1976,” reflects a sampling of the work of Aarons, a noted space physicist as well as photographer, who made his home for many years in the Boston area, and who died in 2008.


“When he moved to the Boston area, he began exploring the West End, which is now is where Charles/Massachusetts General Hospital now is,” said Bozicnik. “This exhibition came together because we were given a portfolio of 100 prints…also, with Jules’ recent passing, it became an opportunity.”


A total of 46 prints from the collection are on view, with scenes from places as varied – and yet often similar – as his childhood home in The Bronx, a family vacation spot in Rockaway, Paris, Israel, the Newton area and more.


While some photos capture places that are radically changed, the intent was not so much historical preservation as the documenting of a culture and the individuals who shape it and who are shaped by it, Bozicnik said.


For museum visitors Garrett and Ditte Lee, of Somerville, both the evolution of neighborhoods and the immediate, intimate emotions of the subjects shine through.


“The photos of the Mass General Hospital area shows a place that is really no longer there,” Garrett said.


“What I really appreciate is the representation of real life,” said Ditte.


 Noting the photo, “After the Argument,” taken in Boston’s West End, she said the tension between the couple from a moment long past still resonates for viewers in the present to see and feel.


 


‘PLATFORM’


James and Audrey Foster Galleries, Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Roof Terrace.


Through Jan. 3


 


Also on view is “PLATFORM,” a new series of solo exhibitions by early and mid-career artists from both the New England and national artist communities.


These shows are open to all media and focus on work that engages with DeCordova’s architectural spaces and social, geographical, and physical location.


The exhibit features the work of Andrew Mowbray, a mix of photo, sculpture, photography and performance.


According to organizers, all the work featured is site-oriented, created for this program, or is new to the New England region. This series is intended to serve as a support for creativity and expression of new ideas and as a catalyst for dialogue about contemporary art.


 


If you go


“A Season of Photography” on view through Jan. 3


Where DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln


Hours Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Admission $12 adults, $8 seniors 60 and older, college students and children 6-18. Children 0-5 free.


Upcoming exhibits include “Out of the Box: Photography Portfolios from the Permanent Collection,” on view Oct. 24 through October 2010.


For more information and related programs Call 781-259-8335 or visit www.decordova.org.


 


 


Margaret Smith is Arts and Calendar editor at GateHouse Media New England’s Northwest Unit. E-mail her at msmith@cnc.com.