Peabody r.ed Exhibit Entertains and Educates on Identity

Dozens of small, pointy-headed, and vaguely human-like characters made of red fabric and wire climb over various archaeological pieces in the lobby of the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology. Their moveable limbs are bent into a variety of different positions, with figures hanging upside down from drawers and appearing to climb on top of each other.

These figures are clones of r.ed, a character created by American artist Angel Lorenz ’83 P ’14 from a spontaneous watercolor drawing done on a kitchen counter in Bologna, Italy, where she traveled to for college. They are featured as part of the Peabody Museum’s exhibit “r.ed in residence,” inspired by Lorenz’s book “r.ed monde in r.ed engender.ed.” The opening of the exhibit, held Saturday afternoon, featured a talk by Lorenz on the concept and developmental process of creating r.ed.

“r.ed was really the only spontaneous thing I’ve ever created,” said Lorenz. “I just was fooling around with water colors at the kitchen table and my roommate was painting vegetables and writing the names of italian vegetables underneath. And I started painting vegetables and all of a sudden r.ed appeared. So, r.ed is really the only thing that came out of me that I hadn’t thought about and researched for a long time.”

The exhibit serves to elaborate on r.ed’s character, personality, and physical traits. In Lorenz’s novel, an identity crisis develops when r.ed feels out of place compared to the rest of the world, which reflects Lorenz’s goal to create a story readers can identify with.

“One idea that helped me [during this project] was to use the novel to comfort people, to entertain people, and amuse people, but maybe to help people feel like they had others that they could identify with, because identity is a major theme in the novel. r.ed has a pointy head [and] r.ed doesn’t know anybody else with a pointy head. r.ed doesn’t know anybody else that’s the color red. r.ed doesn’t even have eyes or a nose or a mouth, so r.ed has an issue with not having others around that are similar,” said Lorenz.

At the Peabody Museum, clones of r.ed are displayed alongside pieces of Peruvian archeology. The pointy head and other physical characteristics of r.ed mirror popular themes seen in these pieces, allowing viewers to explore ancient artifacts through contemporary art.

“I think it’s overall a very unique exhibit. When I saw the little r.ed character, I didn’t associate it at all with Peruvian culture until actually coming to the exhibit where I saw that pointy heads were very common in Peru and that was a lot of [Lorenz’s] influence for creating the character… I’ve learned that very simple art, like the character r.ed seems like a very simple creation, but it can come from a stem of very complex work,” said Anushree Gupta ’18.

To publicize this exhibit, Sophie Miller ’18 and Kiki Kozol ’18 worked with Marla Taylor, curator of collections at the Peabody, to develop a campus wide scavenger hunt through Snapchat. Over 150 students participated, earning points by scanning various “snapcodes” scattered around campus or completing bonus tasks posted on the Peabody’s Instagram. There were three final individual and group winners. Christina Li ’21 won a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Palfrey. Gupta and Somya Mohindra ’18, a team of two, won a 100 dollar downtown gift card. Nalu Concepcion ’19 and Cheyn Cole ’19, another team of two, won Red Sox Tickets.

“I saw it on the email and I was like, ‘This sounds cool,’ so then I went around and found ‘snapcodes.’ I slowly got more obsessed with it, and then I just kept doing it, and it was really fun. I didn’t really know much about r.ed, but, after [participating and attending the opening of the exhibit], I learned a lot, and now I have new appreciation for it,” said Li.

In the future, Lorenz hopes that r.ed will continue to inspire intellectual curiosity and promote education in museums all over the world.

“I hope that [r.ed] will help [students] engage with the collections in the Peabody and the pointy-heads that are in [there]. I foresee that r.ed will be used in museum education, in a fun way, making people look more closely at artifacts. But I also hope that people will dream up more fun things for r.ed to do. I really like the idea of putting r.ed in the hands and the minds of others,” said Lorenz.