Mimi Gross: The Arrival, 1620

Encapsulating the moment of the arrival of the Pilgrims, both from their perspective and the perspective of the native tribes (primarily the Nauset and Wampanoag), this exhibition will feature life-sized figures, a to-scale Mayflower, and proportional sea and sky, turning one PAAM gallery into the shores of Provincetown as it existed 400 years ago. It will also highlight the concept of water – both the idea of water as a mover, and as a necessary source of nourishment, exploring the absence of water as among the reasons the Pilgrims left Provincetown.

“In her proposal for the exhibition, the bow of the Mayflower is seen crashing through the wall, intruding on an established society. It’s a thoughtful consideration of the arrival of the Mayflower in what is now Provincetown, with its implications of the arrival for the land and the Native population, as well as for the Pilgrims themselves. The story is presented uniquely through the artist’s eyes–one who understands the complexities and historical inaccuracies this occasion conjures,” curator Breon Dunigan told Provincetown Arts Magazine.

In school, we learn that the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they settled. But in fact, the Pilgrims sailed to the New World and docked in Provincetown Harbor, first setting foot in America in Provincetown in 1620. After leaving England, the Mayflower blew off route and ended up much further North than intended; the unintended detour sparked defiance in some of the Mayflower passengers, who rallied together in their disloyalty against mother England. The Pilgrim leaders quickly decided a set of rules needed to be put in place in order for everyone to work together and achieve a harmonious colony, thus the Mayflower Compact was drafted and signed in Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620. It established that the colonists would work together, enact laws and ordinances for the good of the colony, and remain loyal subjects to King James I. It was the first document to establish self-governance in the New World, and served as the foundation for the Pilgrims to push the idea for autonomy ever further, eventually resulting in declaring their independence from England.

This historic, dramatic landing of the Mayflower in Provincetown is extremely important to its community, which embeds into its identity the notable events of the Pilgrims’ arrival and the signing of the Mayflower Compact. This exhibition will show both sides – as the viewer walks into the space, she will see the New World landscape on one side of the gallery and the Pilgrims arriving on the opposite side. Figures and scenes will be composed of wood, gator board, and house paint, and completely transform the gallery into a historic diorama. Visitors will walk through the near-life sized rendering of a pivotal moment in both national and human history. The purpose is multi-level, both aesthetically delightful while also inviting the audience to ask the questions that exist within the artwork, and adding commentary on both the peace and the violence, and the cultural inheritance, that make up our American identities.


Seamen’s Bank

Alexander C. and Tillie S. Speyer Foundation

Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod

Cape Cod Foundation

Arts Foundation of Cape Cod

Berta Walker

Golden Paint

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