Beauty in the Natural and Man-Made: Cantor Art Gallery, Peter Moriarty’s “Warm Room”

Grace Bromage ‘23

Features Editor

Surrounded by plants of all shapes and sizes and the fresh smell of flowers, greenhouses invoke a sense of peace. While the Cantor Art Gallery is not filled with the flora that a greenhouse is, black and white images of grandiose structures and lively plants fill the quiet room with the same sense of beauty and calm. These images are a part of Peter A. Moriarty’s “Warm Room” exhibit.

Moriarty is a local Worcester resident. Having left the city to teach at Vermont State College and Trinity School in New York City, Moriarty has since returned to Worcester to be near his family. “Warm Room” is one of the creative projects he has had time to work on since retiring from teaching. Moriarty also works as a guest curator BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vermont.

In the 1990s, Moriarty visited Planting Fields, an arboretum in Long Island. During this time, Moriarty had been working with people, taking photographs of endurance athletes and meaningful possessions. In an email to The Spire, Moriarty wrote that, “beauty and fragrance of the glass house represented a change in approach that was like working in an open air studio.” Moriarty enjoyed this change and the freedom it provided. This was the beginning of “Warm Room”.

“Warm Room” displays historical greenhouses and arboreta from around the world. Greenhouses and gardens from California, Texas, New York City, and Paris are displayed. Some of the notable gardens included in Moriarty’s pictures are the Botanical Gardens of New York City, the Houston Butterfly Room, the Royal Botanical Garden, and the Kew Gardens of England. Despite all the pictures being taken in greenhouses, the subjects of the pictures vary. Some photographs are of flowers, palms, and trees. Others are of mosaics and the glass structures that hold the flora. Changes in seasons and times during which the pictures were taken are illustrated by sunlight filtering through leaves and snow resting upon glass roofs. In these ways, Moriarty shows the contrast between what is organic and what is man-made, what is light and what is dark.

In addition to displaying pieces from “Warm Room,” the Cantor Art Gallery also exhibits pieces from Moriarty’s “Light Shed.” The subjects of “Light Shed” are not magnificent structures built by royal architects, but rather small, working greenhouses in unassuming locations. The name “Light Shed” is inspired by the Bauhaus art school and Laszlo Molohy-Nagy’s work with light. Moriarty says: “There is a simplicity and a purity about how light transforms these sites in a compelling way.” Other parts of Moriarty’s gallery were also inspired by this Bauhaus art form and what different materials such as wood, glass, and metal can create when paired with light.

On what Moriarty hopes that people will take away from this gallery, he says: “I hope that viewers of Warm Room leave the Cantor Gallery with a heightened sense of nature and the importance of conserving this natural beauty.”

Peter A. Moriarty’s “Warm Room” will be displayed in the Cantor Art Gallery until February 29. The gallery is open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon until 5:00 p.m. during the weekends.

Photo by Jacob Bucci ‘21.

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