Matthew Hoffman on the Greenway and Rachel Perry Welty at the Gardner

 Artists Choose Words for Us to Ponder

On a mild sunny February Sunday, I set out to see Rachel Perry Welty’s statement at the Gardner Museum and Matthew Hoffman’s phrases along the Greenway fence. These two temporary installations have been up since early January 2016 and will be down again in several months.  As expected, I found similarities between the two artworks. Both artists display short, seemingly simple statements in bright quirky lower-case letters, visible from a good distance. Both pose questions for their viewers: Welty’s is “What do you really want? ” Hoffman’s is “You’ll spend your entire life searching, ok?” Both artists devoted time to the selection of their words, with attention to potential resonance. Both Hoffman and Welty have developed other distinctive creative projects exploring the impact and nuance of language in daily life.

Views of Matthew Hoffman’s phrases along the Greenway fence near Faneuil Hall and Rachel Perry Welty’s statement at the Gardner Museum near the Fenway

I noted some differences too: Hoffman’s extensive statement of several short sentences runs horizontally along a rugged chain link fence with roadways, traffic signs and blocks of North End buildings as their backdrop. Welty’s single sentence seems to hang like a verticle scroll on the front wall of the elegant and relatively new addition to the Gardner. The background color behind the textured silvery letters represents a particular blue (Bardini blue) that Isabella Stewart Gardner loved. Though the stated question comes from a spam heading, the artist presents it in a way that reflects the museum’s history and mission.

Both installations echo aspects of Lawrence Weiner’s word-based mural, up since late September 2015 on the wall of the air intake building in the Greenway’s Dewey Square Park. All three artists claim to hope that each person will integrate their verbal messages in unique and significant ways. Whether or not I meet their expectations, my slow process has already led to lots of little discoveries. The resources below reveal the productive range of these fascinating artists. Your own comments and questions will surely raise my hopes!


 Matthew Hoffman Matthew Hoffman work on the Greenway

Hey It’s Matthew Artist’s Website

Words on Greenway fence showcase power of language Boston Globe, Jan. 7, 

Rachel Perry Welty Artist’s  website:

Artsy site:

Gardner Museum Contemporary Artists

Lawrence Weiner

“Nothing’s for keeps. Except that we must keep going. You’ll spend your entire life searching, ok? We all want to belong. So let’s all get along. Make the most, and hope. May this never end.” <full statement from Matthew Hoffman’s  MAY THIS NEVER END installation>






  1. Judy Fosdick · · Reply

    Deb, these exhibitions with their clever use if words and graphics make us pause and think. i like it. Thanks for your dedication to keeping us informed of these interesting outside art installations. Judy

  2. Interesting post, Deb. Good to know what’s out there! Thanks! Sharon

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