Fathers, Friends, Neighbors & Artists

While the Peabody Essex Museum continues to mount blockbuster exhibitions, there are more intimate exhibits at smaller venues here in Salem. The Salem Athenaeum and the KensingtonStobart Gallery are currently featuring shows that focus on relationships:  The Good Father (with some exceptions) is the Athenaeum’s Fall/Winter exhibition, and Artist Friends and Neighbors is on view at the Kensington-Stobart until December 2nd. Both exhibitions emphasize proximity, in different ways, and you can also get very close to the texts, images and artwork.

The Good Father was assembled by Elaine von Bruns, the “honorary” curator of a succession of Athenaeum exhibitions. A variety of fathers–from literary, artistic, and political realms, as well as the animal kingdom–are represented by both texts and images from the Athenaeum’s vast, venerable and diverse collection. There are early editions of Hawthorne and Melville on display as well as eulogies for the father or our country bound for the Athenaeum in 1800. Several classic illustrated editions are on view; though he was not a particularly good father, I particularly loved Fritz Eichenberg’s image of Heathcliff from the 1943 Random House edition of Wuthering Heights.

Good and bad fathers at the Salem Athenaeum:  Swedish artist Carl Larsson (1853-1919) and his daughter on the exhibit poster, pages from editions of Cheaper by the Dozen (1948), A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young (1924), Hamlet, and Wuthering Heights (1943).

For me, the Artists Friends and Neighbors exhibit  is a perfect blend of past and present inspirations and associations. Most of the exhibiting artists are friends of mine, and as the exhibition title implies, friends and neighbors to one another. An assemblage of work by Salem artists working today is also evocative of the circle of Salem artists who were friends and neighbors a century ago, many of which I’ve written about here:  Frank Benson, Philip Little, Ross Turner, Isaac Henry Caliga, Jesse Lewis Bridgman. It was quite the cultural milieu a century ago, and it is exciting to see echoes of this cumulative creativity now.  The curator of the exhibit, Jim McAllister, will be giving a gallery talk on this very topic on November 27. And quite apart from the historical inspiration, the exhibition is a lively display of very diverse talents and influences, with works in just about every medium from the participating artists:  Charlie Allen, Katy Bratun, David Decker, Julie Shaw Lutts, Barbara Burgess Maier, Trip Mason, and Racket Shreve. Whenever possible, click on the link so you can see these artists’ works for yourselves (or visit the gallery):  I couldn’t get images of everyone’s work and those images I did get do not do justice to the actual pieces.

Selections from Artist Friends & Neighbors:  Corpus Domini by Charlie Allen (oil on canvas); The Dictionary Series by Julie Shaw Lutts (encaustic collage); two very different fish by Katy Bratun; photographs by Trip Mason (please check out his portfolio here–photographs of photographs taken at night never come out very well!) and 81 Essex Street by Racket Shreve. I’ve included a photograph of the actual house for contrast.  Apologies to Mr. Decker and Ms. Maier–my pictures of their work were far too flashy.

Artist Friends and Neighbors, through December 2, Kensington-Stobart Gallery, 18 Washington Square West (in the Hawthorne Hotel), Salem, Massachusetts.

The Good Father, Salem Athenaeum, 337 Essex Street, Salem, Massachusetts.

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