Art Beneath Our Feet: Asaroton by Mags Harries

Trash transformed as bronze endures for decades.

Look down when you cross by the outdoor food market stalls near Haymarket in Boston. You’ll see string beans, banana peels and packaging that can’t be swept away. They’re bronze embedded in concrete. Flattened from the start, some have smoothed down further under the traffic of trucks, cars, and people since 1976 when artist Mags Harries set them in as part of a public art project for the Boston Centennial. Others, reflecting 21st-century trash, were added after relocation and renovations in 2006.

Provoking questions, second looks and laughter, the entire piece is innovative, yet the title Asaroton refers to an ancient Roman mosaic technique depicting images of leftover foods and other unwanted items.

“When the stalls and real debris of the farmer’s market cover the art, it becomes part of a living experience. On the other days of the week it is a memory of the market.”… from artist’s statement about Asaroton 1976

Explanation and Connections

For Women’s History Month March 2017 I set a twelve-month goal to post about every woman artist represented on the Boston Art Commission’s map of 100 Public Artworks (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Financial District, North End ). I started with Anne Whitney, whose Leif Eriksson statue happened to be number 1 on that map. Mags Harries’ Asaroton happens to be number 99 on the same map, and there are at least eighteen artworks by women in between.

I chose to focus on Mags Harries now because her work is currently featured at the Boston Sculptors Gallery and also within an exhibit at the deCordova Museum through this summer. I’ll hope to have other opportunities to express my enthusiasm for what this inspiring artist has done and is still doing.

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