Glass House Summer Party, In-situ performance titled “The Metamorphoses” by Jonah Bokaer Choreography in front of “One through Zero” by Robert Indiana, Photograph by Neil Landino courtesy of Glass House, New Canaan, 2017

A perfect start to the summer art season, the Philip Johnson Glass House held their annual Summer Party this year happening to be the ten-year anniversary of the verdant festivity. Despite predictions of rain, the weather was sunny and ideal for the world premier of a site-specific performance by artist Jonah Bokaer, titled “The Metamorphoses” organized by Cole Akers, Curator and Special Projects Manager of the Glass House. As always the lawns were manicured and picnic baskets packed for a leisurely lunch in the grass. The Glass House, recently opened Julian Schnabel, “Paintings That I Hope Philip and David Would Like” on view in the painting gallery and Robert Indiana, outdoor sculpture series “One through Zero.” The Schnabel works will be on view until August 14 and the Indiana sculptures on site until November 20, 2017. What was special about this particular day is that a troupe of Bokaer’s performers including Tal Adler-Arieli (Israel/Germany), Laura Gutierrez (USA/Mexico), James Koroni (USA/Iran), Callie Lyons (USA), James McGinn (USA/Belgium) Szabi Pataki (Hungary), Sara Procopio (USA), Betti Rollo (Italy) not only moved throughout the afternoon but interacted with the permanent and temporarily installed artworks. They infiltrated the gallery as well as the wooded areas nearby, with purposeful, unexpectedly graceful gestures. Walking through the property, it was unknown when a body would cross a visitors path. Dressed in costuming by Joshua Katcher of Brave GentleMan each body presented a timely yet, non-specific weight echoing a past that may never have existed. There was a formal quality to the dancers and yet the movements felt as specific as they did improvised. Accompanied by sound design that was fed throughout various speakers in the landscape, Stavros Gasparatos composed an ambient audio piece that was both comforting enough to fall into the background and function as a soundtrack, but soothing enough to not go unnoticed.

Glass House Summer Party, In-situ performance by Jonah Bokaer (detail), Photograph by Michael Biondo courtesy of Glass House, New Canaan, 2017

Taking inspiration for the performance from Ovid’s poem “Metamorphoses,” inarguably an ode to nature, the dancers celebrated through movement becoming their environment while also projecting off of it.  As if invisibly tied to the earth, the bodies were simultaneously buoyant and grounded. From Ovid’s first book of the Metamorphoses;

The mountain-trees in distant prospect please,
E’re yet the pine descended to the seas:
E’re sails were spread, new oceans to explore:
And happy mortals, unconcern’d for more,
Confin’d their wishes to their native shore.
No walls were yet; nor fence, nor mote, nor mound,
Nor drum was heard, nor trumpet’s angry sound:
Nor swords were forg’d; but void of care and crime,
The soft creation slept away their time.
The teeming Earth, yet guiltless of the plough,
And unprovok’d, did fruitful stores allow:
Content with food, which Nature freely bred,
On wildings and on strawberries they fed;
Cornels and bramble-berries gave the rest,
And falling acorns furnish’d out a feast.
The flow’rs unsown, in fields and meadows reign’d:
And Western winds immortal spring maintain’d.

Delving between worlds, the above is a definition of bliss before descension. In comparison, the Bokaer performance could be looked at through the veil of metaphorical exploration. Perhaps the bodies, were moving through planes in between heaven and hell, earth and the outer space. While guests frolicked in the grass the performance happened, both in the foreground and the background, without much physical contact but a sense of unbridled, paced gesturing.

Along with the performance, the annual auction sponsored by Paddle8 took place under an expansive tent and featured artists including Dustin Yellin, James Welling, Miya Ando and Carlos Betancourt amongst others. In addition to ticket sales, the event and auction raised a total of $550,000, a record from last year.

(Left) Martha Stewart and Laura Lendrum (Right) Cole Akers and Jonah Bokaer at the Glass House Summer Party, New Canaan, Photographs courtesy of the Glass House and BFA, 2017

A visit to the Glass House, just a short ride from Manhattan on the Metro North is ideal for a day trip. It is the perfect escape from the heat of the urban jungle or even the suburban jungle depending on which direction you’ll be arriving from. Philip Johnson and David Whitney left a legacy built on a particular aesthetic that is tough to match. A special note to Julian Schnabel, I have a feeling they approve of your painting choices.


The Glass House is a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is located at 199 Elm Street, New Canaan, Connecticut. For more please visit,

Katy Diamond Hamer is the Founding Editor of Eyes Towards the Dove and a freelance art writer focused on global contemporary art and culture. For more of her writing visit and @katyhamer on Instagram.