Florence Griswold Museum

Animal/Vegetable/Mineral:
An Artist’s Guide to the World

June 8–September 22, 2013

Animal/Vegetable/Mineral is generously sponsored by Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company and Connecticut Office of the Arts. Media sponsor WSHU Public Radio.

Animal/Vegetable/Mineral: An Artist’s Guide to the World includes some of the best-known works from the Museum’s permanent collection displayed alongside recent works by contemporary artists. The exhibition takes both its name and organizing principle from a children’s game that presumes the whole of the world can be neatly divided into three categories—the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral.

Artists use many tools to understand, document, and describe the world around them. Animal/Vegetable/Mineral explores the unexpected dialogues that can occur among eclectic works of art that use very different tools to ask similar questions about the character of their subjects, the ordering of the natural world, and the material qualities of things. The exhibition takes its inspiration from Renaissance-era cabinets of curiosities in its installation, grouping the 105 works according to the three themes, and highlights the different ways that American artists explored similar ideas as styles changed. With key works from the Museum’s permanent collection hanging alongside lesser-known gems, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral encourages visitors to take a fresh look at familiar art. The addition of work by contemporary artists Sascha Braunig, Allison Maletz, and the team of Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick demonstrates ways artists continue to investigate questions fundamental to art making.

Robert Vonnoh portrait John Severinus Conway The earliest works in the exhibition, rural portraits by itinerant painters Ralph Earl, John Brewster, and Ammi Phillips, take the same subject that cosmopolitan academic painters Robert Vonnoh and Frank Vincent DuMond would explore a century later. When Ammi Phillips rendered the pristine lace and embroidered textiles of Katherine Hickok’s finery in his c. 1825 portrait of her, he used clear lines to achieve painstaking detail. When Robert Vonnoh painted John Severinus Conway, his fellow American classmate in Paris, in 1883, he used broad strokes and dramatic shadows to give his friend a fiery intensity. If Phillips gave his sitter character in what she wore, painting a portrait of rural refinement, Vonnoh gave his sitter character by suggesting his vibrant personal presence, painting an energetic portrait of a dynamic personality.

Willard Metcalf KalmiaThe iconic impressionist paintings of Childe Hassam and Willard Metcalf are seen next to earlier landscape paintings by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church to convey how stylistic changes led to very different paintings of similar settings. Where Church saw a landscape full of history and drama in his 1846 painting The Charter Oak at Hartford, Metcalf used a modern style to freeze a momentary impression of a light and color in his 1911 New Hampshire painting Thawing Brook (Winter Shadows).


John Haberle Clay PipeArtists have also used radically different tools to examine the essential material qualities of their work, whether in paintings that explore the immediate environments and tools of their studios, or in abstract compositions that eschew images to study the relationship between pigment and ground. John Haberle’s c. 1890 trompe l'oeil still-life painting The Clay Pipe uses intense precision to toy with the limits of representation, tricking a viewer into seeing a pipe instead of paint. Anni Albers’ 1972 lithograph Fox I employs sophisticated interactions of form and color in an abstract composition to investigate how the eye perceives pattern and unity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal/Vegetable/Mineral includes recent work by contemporary artists offering a fresh perspective on these perennial themes. “From the days of the art colony in the early twentieth century, Old Lyme has a long tradition of cultivating new ideas in a historic setting,” writes exhibition curator Ben Colman, Assistant Curator of the Florence Griswold Museum. “We are thrilled to preserve that legacy in Animal/Vegetable/Mineral with an exciting group of recent works.” Allison Maletz, based in New York, creates monumentally scaled watercolor paintings that use images found in family snapshots to study the history of her subjects.

 

 

 

Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, photographers and installation artists working as a team in New York’s Hudson Valley, recreate the mythical figure of the Greenman to invoke pre-modern ideas about the order of the natural world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portland, ME, painter Sascha Braunig’s works meditate on the junction of abstract and representational painting by projecting crisp geometric patterns over figural still lifes that recall the precision of Baroque painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credits

John Brewster, Jr., Boy Holding a Book, c.1810, Florence Griswold Museum

William Wheeler, Still Life with Watermelon, 1865, Florence Griswold Museum

Sascha Braunig, Strange Maine, 2012, Oil on Canvas, 30 in. x 22 in. Collection of Niva Grill Angel, New York. Image courtesy of the artist and Foxy Production, New York

Robert Vonnoh, Portrait of John Severinus Conway, 1883, Florence Griswold Museum

Willard Metcalf, Kalmia, 1905, Florence Griswold Museum

John Haberle, The Clay Pipe, c. 1890, Florence Griswold Museum

Allison Maletz, Totem Pole, 2011. Watercolor and ink on Paper, 20 in. x 15 in. Allison Maletz

Kahn & Selesnick, Untitled, 2012. Archival inkjet print, 24 x 24 inches. Kahn & Selesnick

Sascha Braunig, Strange Maine, 2012, Oil on Canvas, 30 in. x 22 in. Collection of Niva Grill Angel, New York. Image courtesy of the artist and Foxy Production, New York


The Public Launch of New Outdoor Sculpture

Matthew Geller’s Anticipator

Along with opening the exhibition Animal/Vegetable/Mineral: An Artist’s Guide to the World on June 8, the Florence Griswold Museum will unveil Anticipator, a temporary outdoor sculpture by New York-based artist Matthew Geller. A noted sculptor in the field of public art, Geller designed a work for the Museum grounds that combines a recycled tree trunk with three “bionic” limbs forged from Corten steel. These perforated branches emit colored light and mist through fan-like blossoms. The tree used for the installation, a Star Magnolia that died a year or more ago, has great significance since it is documented that Miss Florence had the tree planted during the 1920s. “It would have been hard to find a better tree than this,” stated Geller. “Anticipator continues the bond between this landscape and the creation of art begun by the artists of the Lyme Art Colony.”

Playful, accessible, and unexpected, Anticipator offers elements of surprise that encourage visitors to interact with it and each other, fostering a sense of community as they stroll the grounds. Geller often incorporates mist into his works as a means of sparking conversation among viewers by subtly changing their surroundings. The mist—in constant flux as it is influenced by the slightest changes in the temperature, humidity and wind—transforms the environment, influencing how visitors perceive light and air against the backdrop of the Lieutenant River, a subject of interest to the generations of artists who have painted in and around the Florence Griswold House. The sculpture’s futuristic combination of natural and artificial forms plays off our historic site—the tree trunk has been salvaged from the grounds and the exotic blooms recall Miss Florence’s interest in non-native species, many of which she planted around her house. A new biomechanical hybrid that is part plant and part machine, Anticipator shapes its environment in an almost animate way, introducing the elements of mist and light and eliciting feedback in return.

matthewgeller.com

 

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Meseum Membership

Press on Animal/Vegetable/Mineral

Susan Dunne for the Hartford Courant

Don Church and Tony Schillaci for Examiner.com

Sharma Howard for The Day

Poetry inspired by The Last Supper of the Greenmen by Kahn & Selesnick


Some Feast
by Patricia O'Brien
Guilford Poets Guild,
Connecticut River Poets

Tell you what, it's not the heat, it's the humidity ...
I can't lift this glass to my lips. And look
at our companions. Here ... Right here. At our feet!
Yes, yes, between you and me. Just take a peek.
I know it's hot but for Peat's sake, just push away
from the table. You'll see. These are the characters
we've asked to join us before the looming rain
that, once it starts, won't stop.
Tonight the sky's clear. The moon howls its light past
the drifting clouds the stars light up. And none of us
is howling back. Neither marten nor weasel nor us.
We're all alike: Q - u - i - e - t.
Not to say that quiet isn't nice. I used to like it
when quiet was the very out one needed
from all the crowing and barking and scrappy
green growing. I liked the quiet when I tired
of the bees buzzing, the flap of ol' bats' winging.
Now we've only the quiet this heat is drowning us in.
But, hey, where are the rest of our friends?
Stuck on I-95, I wager, overgrown as it is
with seaweed and moss ...
Oh, forgive me. No cousin of yours, I'm certain.
Well, OK then, let's just sit here.
Something is bound to happen.
Now, if only I could get to this drink
before the next season pours in on us.
Oh, what the hell. Won't someone fire
up the grill? The coal's getting damp.
Won't someone lift my glass?
Won't someone ... anyone ...
come to our table.