Prominent Artists Take "Field Trip" to the Shelburne Museum | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Prominent Artists Take "Field Trip" to the Shelburne Museum 

State of the Arts

sota-shelmuseum_0.jpg

For Ted Muehling, it was the duck decoys that proved an irresistible lure.

“They’re very clever abstractions,” Muehling, a Manhattan jewelry designer, said during a private tour of the Shelburne Museum last weekend. “They’re tender and graceful and beautifully carved, but at the same time there’s something sinister about them.”

Muehling’s bemused response to the hundreds of decoys displayed in the museum’s Dorset House was shared by some of the seven other artists invited to browse the Shelburne’s collections in the company of Associate Curator Kory Rogers. It was the sort of serendipity Rogers had been hoping for. “I was pleasantly shocked,” he said. The artists “saw the decoys as ironic in that they pull real ducks to their death. I guess it shows that beauty can be dangerous.”

In a first-of-a-kind venture that Rogers now wants to arrange annually, a group of artists prominent in diverse fields were invited to glean inspiration from the museum’s vast stash of objects. This initial field trip was organized in collaboration with Antiques magazine, whose editors plan to publish a feature on the artists’ experiences in their August issue.

Ideally, in 2010, the museum will present a show of works created by the eight artists in response to what they saw during their two-day tour. But producing something for display wasn’t a precondition of the visit. The main aim of both the museum and the magazine, Rogers said, was “to bring our respective audiences into the contemporary world.”

The Shelburne has been striving in recent years to slough off its fusty image. Its directors don’t want their institution to be seen as an eccentric’s attic, stuffed with curios from long ago, but as a relevant, even hip cabinet of wonders. “We’d love to do a show about what the present can learn from the past,” says Leslie Wright, the museum’s publicist. “It’s wonderful to see that the museum is still full of life, still giving people creative ideas.”

At the end of their first day, many of the artists were as overwhelmed as they were bedazzled. “There’s too much here that I’m interested in,” exclaimed Hudson Valley furniture maker Chris Lehrecke. “There’s just so much color, pattern, form,” added Michelle Erickson, a ceramics virtuoso from Virginia. Muehling summed up the general amazement by observing, “This place is a fabulous hodge-podge of everything imaginable.”

The artists were still clicking their cameras enthusiastically as they toured the Shaker Shed after viewing sleighs, toys, circus posters, paintings, quilts and, of course, the steamboat Ticonderoga. Some were just becoming acquainted with Vermont as well as with the museum. Erickson, for one, had visited the state only once before, and was wowed by all the sunshine and mud.

Toots Zynsky, by contrast, lived near Middlebury as a communard in the 1970s and in southern Vermont as an emerging glass artist in the early ’80s. Though she had visited the museum before, she found herself seeing its collections as though for the first time. “It’s interesting that, the older you get, you tend to look at things differently,” said the redheaded glass threader, who’s 58.

Zynsky, who now lives in Rhode Island, appeared to be fulfilling Rogers’ hope that the artists will “let what they’ve seen marinate in their brains for a while.” Time is needed, Zynsky said, for her imagination to take wing. “I try to let the creative process be unconscious,” she added. “For me, it’s always an experience of revealing and learning.”

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Kevin J. Kelley

Kevin J. Kelley

Bio:
Kevin J. Kelley is a contributing writer for Seven Days, Vermont Business Magazine and the daily Nation of Kenya.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation