Jennifer Cecere, Women's Work

Honoring Women’s Work

This month, the Addison debuted two large-scale, site-specific installations by Jennifer Cecere, which were commissioned in honor of “Abbot & Andover at 50: Then, Now, Next.” ⁣This year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Abbot Academy and Phillips Academy becoming a single institution aims to recognize the legacy of Abbot Academy, one of the first educational institutions in New England founded for girls and women, and the ways it has impacted the Andover community. 

The goals of the program are to examine the complicated history associated with the merger; reveal and share the experiences of students, faculty, and alumni since 1973; celebrate the people, programs, and places that Abbot and Andover have brought together to create a more inclusive learning and living environment; and cultivate ongoing discussion and action around the changing dynamics related to gender and education. 

Cecere (Abbot Class of 1969), long associated with the Pattern and Decoration Movement, has spent much of her career creating artworks that activate public spaces while challenging traditional perspectives on “women’s work.” She is best known for bold installations that draw attention to handicraft by reimagining the domestic doily within the built environment. “My goal is to champion this point of view of taking domestic activities like knitting and crocheting, which were creative outlets for women and are often overlooked, and bringing these ideas into the public realm,” Cecere has stated. 

Jennifer Cecere, Women's Work, 2024, laser-cut aluminum (on the façade of the Addison)
Jennifer Cecere, Abbot Doily Bench, 2024, laser-cut aluminum (in Abbot Circle)

For “Abbot & Andover at 50,” Cecere has created works that recontextualize the humble lace ornament and dynamically link both campuses. Abbot Doily Bench, which takes the shape of an accordion-folded doily and is over nine feet long, five feet wide, and eight feet high, is displayed on the grounds of the original Abbot campus, while Women’s Work, 20 feet in diameter, hangs on the façade of the Addison on the original Andover campus. Together, the two laser-cut aluminum pieces encourage reconsideration of the habitually overlooked contributions of women artists and, by extension, the often underappreciated yet lasting impact of Abbot Academy on the culture and traditions of Phillips Academy.

“An aluminum doily on the Addison’s façade becomes part of the building, reflecting light, time of day, the seasons and campus life,” said Cecere. “It will be interactive and dynamic, which is my aim. The Abbot doily bench will also reflect the sky, trees, buildings, and community. The two create a dialogue reinforcing our message to honor the past by recognizing the complicated history associated with the merger and to create a more inclusive Andover. I think this is an appropriate way to honor the two institutions and celebrate this important milestone.”

Jennifer Cecere discusses her work with students in a Phillips Academy class

Cecere also will serve as the Addison’s Edward E. Elson Artist-in-Residence this spring. In this capacity, she will work with students from Phillips Academy and local public schools in subjects including painting, visual studies, English, art as activism, and gender studies. Additionally, Cecere will present a virtual talk on Wednesday, May 22, at 3:00 pm to discuss her body of work and the installations created for “Abbot & Andover at 50.” A video recording of the program will be available online about a week after the presentation. This free program is organized with Andover’s Memorial Hall Library; registration is required. Women’s Work and Abbot Doily Bench will remain on view through July 31, 2024. 

Generous support for these installations has been provided by the Abbot Academy Fund, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

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