“The Art is What’s Important.”

John Hyden discusses Alice Neel's "Julie and Aristotle"

An Interview with Preparator John Hyden

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘art’ and ‘Worcester’ in the same sentence? The Worcester Art Museum (WAM) has been an iconic part of the growing Worcester art scene since its opening in 1898. Its dedicated staff wants the community to recognize and share in all that the Worcester art scene has to offer, so over the next few weeks, the New Worcester Spy will present interviews with WAM staff members about their favorite pieces in the museum and why art matters in Worcester.

By Nicholas Clark

While touring the galleries of an art museum, like those of the Worcester Art Museum (WAM), one can admire the pieces and general ambience. However, while enjoying the masterpieces on presentation, one might not recognize who was responsible for the installation and mounts on which the works of art reside.

John Hyden discusses Alice Neel's "Julie and Aristotle"
John Hyden discusses Alice Neel’s “Julie and Aristotle”

Who deserves recognition? John Hyden, WAM’S Preparator, is the man responsible for fabricating unique mounts and installations for every individual artwork. Described as a favorite activity of Hyden’s, making the mounts is a frequent happening as the museum is planning new exhibits for upcoming years.

A part of the team for over 18 years, Hyden has crafted every single mount and frame the museum needed to allow the galleries to have a style and character, allowing one to seamlessly transition from gallery to gallery while focusing solely on the art works.

“The art is what’s important,” Hyden proclaimed when discussing the preparation and layout for establishing the galleries. He explained how white walls and subtle frames allow a viewer to capture the whole artwork without being distracted.

Tasked with installing and preparing every gallery and artifact, Hyden is able to examine and admire all that the museum has to offer – the reason why he was so careful in choosing a piece that stuck out to him more than others. Taking into account his position and task to perfectly present every piece, Hyden selected a work by Alice Neel, Julie and Aristotle.

“Art should challenge conformity and provoke thought,” Hyden stated, going on to refer to the philosophical questions and thought arising from an abstract piece such as Julie and Aristotle and enjoying the psychologically intensity that exists within many modern Abstract Expressionist works. Hyden appreciates the works of Alice Neel for those reasons as well as her status within the local community.

Alice Neel painted Julie and Aristotle as oil on canvas in 1967 after painting the piece several times before achieving perfection. As an American abstract artist she was able to incorporate underlying themes and moods within her works stemming from her personal beliefs. Being an early and prominent feminist she was able to include serious and powerful meanings in her work that make it undeniably unique.

With Alice Neel’s ties to the local Worcester area it’s no wonder her works are sought after and appear in the Worcester Art Museum as well as in the surrounding areas. Hyden told only truths when he explained his love for thought-provoking art after showing Alice Neel’s piece off. Substance and sophistication are entangled within the seemingly simple painting of just a woman and a dog.
Although the name Aristotle in the title seems to bear no relation to the Greek philosopher, the contemplation brought about by the piece could be something Aristotle himself would reach. Hyden’s choice of such a deep yet friendly piece only further goes to show the wide variety, and pleasing presentation, that each gallery maintains.

When he’s not working on mounts or installing the works of art one can find Museum Preparator John Hyden admiring the galleries he worked hard to help put together. Alice Neel’s Julia and Aristotle can be found at Gallery 321, which features art since the mid-20th century.

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“This Painting Tells a Story.”


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