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Fruitlands Museum is Presenting Carolyn Wirth’s Seeing Past Faces

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Fruitlands Museum presents Seeing Past Faces, an exhibition of work by 2016 Artist in Residence Carolyn Wirth, on view int he Art Museum July 2 to August 21. Wirth's sculptures will showcase American female authors Emily Dickinson and Louisa May Alcott, and women connected to Fruitlands' history like The Shaker's Mother Ann Lee, Fruitland's founder Clara Endicott Sears, and Wampanoag basket maker Emma Safford. 

An opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 16. 

“I’ve been planning my Fruitlands residency for a long time, and have created several new sculptures especially for Seeing Past Faces. During my many visits to Fruitlands I’ve been lured by the mystery surrounding the women associated with the museum. For example, I’ve always been intrigued by a small photo of Wampanoag basket maker Emma Safford in the Native American building. I think if there was one person from the museum I’d like to speak with, it would be Emma. I can’t know the story of her life, since it wasn’t written down. She exists in the historic record only in this photo, and a mention of a family of Native American basket makers, but her 150-year-old, miniature basket is preserved. I can imagine her cutting walnut splints, weaving the basket, making the lid fit exactly. When I think of her, I see her face and weaving combined into one image. In making the sculpture about her I’ve tried to embody this thought—that the maker and her creation are one—and both speak to us across time,” said Wirth. 

Wirth is creating several works around the Fruitlands campus inspired by the landscape and history. In the Wayside Visitor Center, a site specific interactive sculpture titled Spirit Tree is based on Shaker Spirit Drawings, which were small tokens given in fellowship between Shakers. The subjects of the drawings could include exotic birds, and items of gold and silver, but trees, fruit, and flowers were common symbols of life and growth. 

Visitors will be invited to add to the tree mural by using blank leaves to write a few words about what inspires them, or to draw their own leaf or flower and add it to the branches. And, in the grape arbor beside the Fruitlands Farmhouse, Wirth has created a 3D version of fruit similar to Sister Hannah Cohoon's iconic drawing of an apple tree bearing crazily enormous fruits. 

“Wirth’s creative method crafts poetic representations of historic women. With each step, her sculptures disrupt the idea of portraits. She works from historic images blended with photographs of herself. She sews period clothing only to abstract it by stiffening it into sculptural forms. Her unique painterly style of casting uses wax, embedded objects, or open spaces to create layers of meaning in each work. The physical interventions Wirth employs produce sculpture that departs from strict portraiture. Rather than showing only their faces or their clothes, the artist captures the spirit of her subjects, bringing to life the stories of these compelling women," said guest curator Rebecca Migdal. 

Fruitlands Museum 

Fruitlands Museum, a 210-acre historic, natural, and cultural destination based in Harvard, MA, recently integrated operations with The Trustees of Reservations.  Founded in 1914 by author and preservationist Clara Endicott Sears, the complex takes its name from an experimental utopian community led by Transcendentalists Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane that existed on this site in 1843.


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