Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or

Turn Turn Turn

Turn Turn Turn

at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

May 24 – August 24, 2014

MADISON, WI–The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) presents Turn Turn Turn, on view in the main galleries through August 24, 2014. Drawing from MMoCA’s permanent collection, Turn Turn Turn is an anthology of life’s joys and sorrows as visualized in modern and contemporary art.

Inspired by the lyrical language of Ecclesiastes 3, which meditates on the circular nature of time as reflected in the seasons, Turn Turn Turn addresses the changing circumstances in the course of human events. Its title is taken from Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season), a song Pete Seeger wrote in the late 1950s and whose lyrics came from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. During the politically turbulent 1960s, the American folk rock band The Byrds immortalized Seeger’s song, which became a cry for social justice and a call for peace. Although the title of the song does not come from Scripture, it speaks to the spirit of Ecclesiastes 3, suggesting the passage of time and the medieval rota fortunae or wheel of fortune, an emblem of the recurring nature of life’s blessings and losses.

Ecclesiastes is a canonical book of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament. The introduction to its third chapter is one of the most eloquent expressions of life’s mutability in all of sacred literature. In poetry rather than prose, it starts with “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Each of the seven verses that follow the initial statement of Ecclesiastes 3 is a thematic section of the exhibition. These lines, set forth in binary opposites, proclaim that there are specific times in the circle of life that may be cause for jubilation or anguish.

Turn Turn Turn illuminates these decisive times in life with works of art drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. James Van Der Zee’s Wedding Day, Harlem (1924) is a tender portrait for “A time to love.” With wild abandon, couples find “A time to dance” in Luis Alfonso Jiménez’s lithograph Honky Tonk (1981). A leather boot halts “A time to kill” in Roy Lichtenstein’s Foot and Hand (1964). Terry Husebye’s photograph Mifflin Street #1 (1971) highlights the confrontations that can arise during “A time to speak up".

The narrator of the Book of Ecclesiastes, proverbially King Solomon but now thought to be an anonymous author, asks an essential question: “Is life worth living?” Modern commentators largely see Ecclesiastes as uplifting. As an antidote to life’s reversals, the celebrated wisdom text counsels, as does Turn Turn Turn, a joy in work and life’s simple pleasures.

Generous funding for Turn Turn Turn has been provided by Shirley A. Kubly; J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.; Dane Arts; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.


Hours at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are Tuesday–Thursday (noon–5 pm); Friday (noon–8 pm); Saturday (10 am–8 pm); and Sunday (noon–5 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays.
Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. MMoCA is supported through memberships and through generous contributions and grants from individuals, corporations, agencies, and foundations. Important support is also generated through auxiliary group programs; special events; rental of the museum’s lobby, lecture hall, and rooftop garden; and sales through the Museum Store.

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